ZIMBABWE which is still nursing wounds of the battered economy following a protracted period of political turmoil is negotiating with its Southern African Development Community (SADC) neighbour and ally, Zambia to import maize.
Zimbabwe, once Southern Africa’s food basket, has a deficit of 500,000 tonnes of the staple food.
Zambia’s high commissioner to Zimbabwe Sipula Kabanje said the negotiations have been going on through Zambia’s maize agent, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA). However, he would not indicate how much maize Harare wants to import from Zambia.
“Zimbabwe has a deficit of 500,000 tonnes. We are coordinating with FRA because they (Zimbabweans) need to import maize to cover the deficit, and FRA is keen to export,” said the high commissioner.
Zambia has this year recorded a surplus in the maize production. But poor crop marketing and bad roads in rural areas where most of the grain is produced pose a major challenge.
Briefcase farmers have since moved in largely inaccessible villages to offer peasant farmers ridiculously low prices, and the desperate farmers have no option but to sell at give away prices.
The export to Zimbabwe should therefore spur FRA to go for the maize even in the most difficult areas to access.
According to Kabanje, Zimbabwe is not only looking for maize but “would also like to import other food items” like cooking oil, wheat, beef and dairy products from Zambia.
“Zambia should take advantage of the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe, where industrial activity is just beginning to recover after years of economic meltdown,” said Kabanje, adding that Zambia should thus produce a lot of grain for Harare and other markets in the SADC region.
Kabanje added that there were a lot of firms in Zimbabwe seeking to import wheat, rice, beans and other agricultural produce from Zambia.
Zimbabwe once the region’s food basket went economically aground at the height of the country’s seizure of white owned farms in President Robert Mugabe’s widely condemned land redistribution programme.
The farm seizures were carried out in ZANU-PF’s campaign to please landless Zimbabweans who were driven to the arid forest reserves during centuries of colonial rule. But the programme has backfired as most commercial farmland previously in white hands is idle.
(Sila Press Agency)