Mugabe's hunger games

Fifteen years after Robert Mugabe and his cronies grabbed commercial farms, Zimbabwe’s granaries are yet again empty. In order to meet the annual 1,8M tonne requirement, Zimbabwe will import 700,000 tonnes of maize, most likely from western neighbour, Zambia.

President Mugabe will either be very embarrassed or very annoyed to learn that the producers of Zambian maize are the same white farmers who were kicked out of Zimbabwe without even a holey Rhodesian penny for compensation. At harvest time, most of the farms seized under Mugabe's chaotic land reform program boast acres of grass, bushes and tree stumps, thanks to the indolent new farmers, who do nothing but catch mice and chop trees for firewood sold along the highways. Annually, the agriculture minister, Joseph Made, shuffles his deck of excuses and picks some feeble justification for the poor harvest.

Often it is army worm infestation, other times it is lack of farming input, drought and floods. But there is really no excuse. Mugabe’s land reform is a monumental flop. Several commercial farms had irrigation equipment before the looters moved in. Now the once highly mechanised farms do not even have fences. Apparently barbed wire has better uses. For example impala snares. Despite ample reserves of water in dams, each year we plead ‘drought.’ As a start, government should aim to have one good harvest in 3 years. If all the available land was utilised, one good harvest would create sufficient grain reserves to cover for the inevitable drought-flood-army worm outbreak.

The ever-objective Herald claims that the 700,000 tonne requirement is merely "precautionary" but at the same time reports that only 150,000 tonnes are currently held in reserve. This of course is a trailer load of nonsense because everybody knows that the Grain Marketing Board not only offered a low maize price last season (hence the bare silos) but the parastatal also still owes local farmers $50M.

This year, maize production is down 26% in the Sadc region. This obviously means that minister Made can expect to pay more for Zambia's maize. Demand and supply.

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