HARARE,– Agriculture minister Joseph Made on Wednesday said government will not declare the drought that has ravaged mainly the southern parts of the country a national disaster and will instead import grain to avert hunger.
Zimbabwe on Monday announced it would import 700,000 tonnes of maize, which will cost the cash strapped government in excess of $200 million, to avert a food crisis following a drought that affected crops in most parts of the country this season.
The country is holding 150,000 tonnes in reserves against a national requirement of 1,8 million metric tonnes.
Responding to a question in Parliament on why the government has not declared a national disaster to allow donors to assist it with food aid, Made said the drought had mainly affected the southern part of the country and it was too early to declare an emergency.
“We are not at a stage yet to indicate whether this is a disaster or not,” he said.
He said government would issue permits to the private sector, non-governmental organisations and World Food Programme to import grain.
“We will be dealing directly as government with the rural areas and the vulnerable groups,” he said.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture has forecast Zimbabwe’s maize production for the 2014/15 season at 950,000 tonnes, over a third lower than the previous season due to a prolonged dry spell.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s maize output was at 1,456 million tonnes, 82 percent more than the 798,600 tonnes in the 2012/13 season. It also achieved its highest total cereal production in five years at 1,7 million metric tonnes.
But in a maize production report for Southern Africa 2015 released recently, FAO said nearly 300,000 hectares under maize in the country were a write-off because of the dry spell and the estimated 35 percent decline in maize output was the highest in the region.
South Africa and Namibia are forecast to record 33 percent decline, Botswana 29 percent, Zambia 14 percent, Malawi 25 percent, Lesotho 30 percent Swaziland 20 percent while Mozambique and Madagascar have the lowest declines of five and four percent.