Twenty-seven milling companies have suspended operations in Matabeleland provinces in the past fortnight due to a shortage of grain in the region after government capped maize imports at 2 000 metric tonnes per month, an official has said.
The decision has left the region vulnerable to food and stock feed shortages and put hundreds of jobs in jeopardy, the official said.
“We were informed last week that maize imports have been restricted to 2 000 metric tonnes per company, with any excess being confiscated to the Grain Marketing Board,” Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Tafadzwa Musarara told The Source on the sidelines of a food summit in Bulawayo on Thursday.
“We have requested the Ministry of Agriculture to rescind this decision because we think it will create a man-made disaster,” he said.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ringson Chitsiko said the government was planning to ban all grain imports by private players by May to contain a growing import bill.
He however said the millers should submit an application to his ministry requesting to import maize above 2000 tonnes adding that his ministry was prepared to approve the request.
“I will approve their permits to import maize above 2000 if they submit their applications,” said Chitsiko.
According to the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe has a maize deficit of over one million metric tonnes following poor harvests while the United Nations World Food Programme estimates that at least 2.2 million people will require food assistance until this year’s harvest, with the drought prone southern region being the most vulnerable.
Musarara said millers in the region had made arrangements with private foreign suppliers of maize as the state-owned GMB had no capacity to supply enough grain to meet demand.
The millers also submitted a position paper asking government to ban the importation of maize meal because the local industry had capacity to meet demand.