The Sunday News
Vincent Gono, Features Editor
THE country is not facing an immediate threat of hunger as it still has 500 000 tonnes of maize in its strategic grain reserves, enough to feed the country for the next seven months.
Although in some areas farmers are expecting reduced harvests due to the dry spell, new maize stock from this year’s harvest is expected to start trickling in to the Grain Marketing Board by April.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister, Vangelis Haritatos told Sunday News in an interview in Bulawayo on Thursday that the country was still food secure and was not considering importing maize.
He, however, said there was a shortage of wheat in the country as it was producing 150 000 tonnes per year against a total requirement of 400 000 to 450 000 tonnes per year, prompting the GMB to flight a tender to import 200 000 tonnes.
“We have more than 500 000 metric tonnes of maize still in stock. Our estimates are that we have between six to seven months of food including the strategic reserves without the new crop which is expected to come in at the end of April or early May. We consume approximately 120 000 metric tonnes of maize per month. So for now importing maize is out of question.
“For the past two seasons, Zimbabwe has not imported any major grains such as maize. The nation is comfortable since the grain we have is enough to see us through the next seven months. This means the supply of the staple diet in the country is out of danger for the next coming months.
“If at anytime we feel that we need to import any grain to ensure the food security of our nation is guaranteed, Government will certainly not overlook that. Food security is our priority as a ministry and we will always work to ensure that no one lacks. Where there is lack of it, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare that we work hand in glove with always advises us,” he added.
He admitted that this year the rainfall was not as good as it was last season due to El Nino but added that the Government was putting in place strategies to mitigate the effects of drought as it was becoming apparent that climate change was real.
“We are working on measures to adapt to the potential effects of El Nino. Climate change is real and its effects need strategic planning so that in future its effects on agriculture are minimally felt. Irrigation has become the answer to crop production as rain-fed agriculture is no longer sustainable,” he said.
Deputy Minister Haritatos said the El Nino phenomenon was usually associated with prolonged droughts or mid-season droughts and floods but in Zimbabwe past El Nino seasons have led to droughts that have resulted in crop failure, livestock and wildlife deaths.
“We have been providing farmers with drought tolerant crops such as small grains, short and medium season varieties of maize, and our scientists have also been breeding heat-tolerant crops. We are also working on irrigation rehabilitation, development and expansion with the assistance of partners. We want to ensure that we develop 200 hectares of irrigation per every district although this intervention has been affected by shortage of funds. Government cannot go it alone, so we have engaged willing partners who are helping us with the requisite financial resources,” he said.
He emphasised the need for communities to be taught about water harvesting techniques.