Govt ups grain imports

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GOVERNMENT is now importing about 100 000 tonnes of grain a month up from 80 000 in June so that it is able to feed the nation, especially the vulnerable in both urban and rural areas.

Two successive droughts have led to the country resorting to grain imports.

President Mnangagwa is on record saying no one will starve and people in both rural and urban areas are receiving food aid.

In an interview, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the tonnage of maize imports has gone up.

He said Government is now prioritising Command Agriculture and Presidential Input Support Scheme programme in anticipation of a favourable rain season.

“Coming to maize, we didn’t do well. The summer season wasn’t great. We got the season wrong, we thought that we will get more rains in the first half and less second half and it came the other way round and threw the farmers off the rails. So, we have to import maize and that is the reality,” he said.

“Our target is now 100 000 tonnes a month from about 80 000, that’s what we are consuming both humans and animals in terms of animal feed. So, we are having to import. We don’t have enough for the feeding programme, there is a deficit, it is because we have to import and it’s not easy to find the foreign currency to continuously import to make sure that there is adequate food.”

He said Government is determined to ensure that farmers get inputs on time before the onset of the rains.

“We want to make sure that we give the farmers their inputs on time so that should not be an issue and we are working with banks to make sure that those seeking credit under Command Agriculture are able to access the credit in time,” he said.

“The economy is agriculture, its mining, its tourism, its industry. So, it is the macro-economy that is actually the economy. Our objective around agriculture is that we are food secure and can put food on the table and we have two programmes namely Command Agriculture which is commercial and the Presidential Input Scheme programme which is more social protection where we give inputs free to vulnerable families across the country.”

Turning to the winter wheat programme, Prof Ncube just above 40 000 hectares were put under wheat against the projected target of 80 000 hectares.

“We have been impacted negatively by the drought in the last season but we soldier on. As I speak, the winter wheat programme, we are going into harvesting now. We did okay, we didn’t meet the 80 000 hectares target we wanted. We however, had over 40 000 hectares under wheat. We came here to the Midlands to inspect some of the winter wheat farms here and the crop is doing well. We have a good crop and we are going into harvesting,” said Prof Ncube.

He said Government is supporting Zinwa so that it provides water, especially to cities such as Gweru, Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.—chronicle

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