Zim, Zambia in maize deal
Lusaka – Zambia will export 150 000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe, the Food Reserve Agency in Lusaka says.
According to the agency, part of the consignment will be hauled to Zimbabwe within two weeks while more will be delivered later, food Reserve Agency officials close to the deal told The Southern Times.
“All the formalities are done and we should start exporting maize to Zimbabwe in one or two week’s time,” said the sources without stating the cost of the 150 000 tonne consignment.
There have been widespread concerns about food security in SADC with the latest SADC food security report indicating that about 14 million people in the region are vulnerable to hunger.
Other countries in the region benefitting from Zambia's generosity include Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Angola, where the food situation has been affected by unfavourable weather, with Namibia among the most affected. However, Zambia, which has enjoyed bumper maize harvests in recent years, estimated at more than 2 million tonnes has told Zimbabwe to “eat the corn first and discuss the payment formalities later”, according to Zimbabwe media reports citing the country’s leader, President Robert Mugabe.
Recently, Zambia’s Vice President, Guy Scott, was in Harare to finalise the maize deal, where President Mugabe said the two neighbours are yet to put a value on the rescue cargo.
Following the meeting with VP Scott, President Mugabe communicated with his Zambian counterpart President Michael Sata.
“When I was talking to him about what we had in mind about paying, he said ‘no, no, no’. He is a humorous man as you know,” Zimbabwe media quoted President Mugabe saying recently when he launched the Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Implementation Plan.
“‘Let’s have the food in the stomachs of our people first, and when we have the food in the stomachs, then we will talk about the price’ and I said ‘that is a great man, he shares our affliction’.”</p>
According to experts, at today’s prices, 150 000 tonnes of maize is valued at about US$25 million. The nutrition situation in Zimbabwe has become a major concern for the government, as one out of every three children is chronically malnourished. Twenty-five percent of all deaths of children under five is attributed to nutritional deficiencies and 47 percent of women are anaemic.
“Given the recent challenges of spiralling food prices and climate change, the food situation in our country has worsened as the number of people unable to meet their daily food requirements has increased by 21 percent since 1995,” President Mugabe added.
Other remedies lie in supporting new black farmers who benefitted from the government’s land reforms over the last 13 years. This support includes access to cheap finance, knowledge on climate and the environment, smart farming systems, infrastructure and farm machinery.
Vice President Joice Mujuru, who chairs a National Food and Nutrition task force, which was first introduced to respond to the 1993 drought, has been tasked to lead the government programme to “co-ordinate and implement multi-sectoral interventions to address the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity”.
During the recent SADC Summit in Malawi, regional leaders reviewed the regional food security situation, in particular cereal, livestock and fisheries production and noted that the region will experience slight increased in these products.
The leaders called on member states to scale up the implementation of measures to increase agricultural production, reduce post harvest losses and improve overall food and nutrition security in line with the Dar-Es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
It is estimated that in excess of US$5 billion is lost in post harvest losses on cereal with an estimated US$4 billion being lost in Africa alone, according to the United Nations food agency, Food and Agricultural Organisation. It has since called for various countervailing measures to reduce grain post-harvest losses to increase food security.