Zim hunger escalates

• As GMB runs out of stock


ZIMBABWE’s hunger situation has escalated to unsustainable levels as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) stocks have depleted.

The chairman of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe Tafadzwa Musarara told Business Times that there is need to import maize to avert hunger.

“Though the country is facing some mealie meal shortages, millers have begun importation of grain into the country with a number of wagons of imported already in Harare and Bulawayo,” Musarara said.

“We have taken this measure as part of our solutions to minimise hunger in the country as there are no significant stocks at the Grain Marketing Board.”

Musarara said the total tonnage of imported maize will be unveiled on Friday. The current maize meal shortages have been blamed on the Industry and Commerce ministry which failed to register some millers for the maize subsidy, resulting in millers withholding their stocks to avoid losses.

The shortage of maize meal is one of the major causes of inflation as the staple food pushes the consumer price index.

Government scrapped maize subsidies at the start of December, but reintroduced it after a public outcry over high prices. This has not helped the crisis as the maize meal shortages persist. National Foods, which is the country’s biggest grain miller, said it has continued to provide the market with grain from their own stocks.

“We have utilised most of our own stocks to supply the market under the grain subsidy programme. The government will later give us back the maize we have used because there are stocks at GMB,” NatFoods recently said.

The gazetted price of the roller meal is $50, which is seen as affordable for the public. In most high density suburbs roller meal is sold at ZWL$75 (cash) per 10kg and ZWL$110 EcoCash.

Business Times observed that many retail shops did not have roller meal. The registered millers include National Foods Limited (NFL) and Blue Ribbon Foods, which were allocated 28,000 tonnes and 10,000 respectively, out of the 40,000 which the government has availed to millers.

GMB public relations officer Joseph Katete said the government has stepped up the importation programme with some wagons of cereals already in the capital.

He asked for questions in writing. However, he had not responded to the written questions by the time the newspaper went to print.

Roller meal taskforce chairperson Denford Mutashu said the opening up of the country’s borders will help to contain mealie meal prices.

“We hope that the importation of maize meal by those with free funds is expected to stabilise the mealie meal situation as the product will be flooded on the market,” Mutashu said.

The shortage of maize meal comes as a United Nations agency recently said that nearly 8m, or half of the population is not getting enough to eat.

The World Food Programme plans to double the number of Zimbabweans that it assists, up to 4.1m, but will require over US$200m in the first half of 2020.

Zimbabwe, once Africa’s breadbasket has been hit hard by three consecutive years of drought. This has left the economy on the edge as it also battles foreign currency shortages and power outages.

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