Zimbabwe explores corn imports amid poor harvest

Facing catastrophic hunger, Zimbabwe has made the decision to import corn from Mexico, Ukraine and neighbouring South Africa to help feed over half of its population, after drought withered crops last year and threatens to do the same in 2020.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the imports on Friday.

Mnangagwa further states that in light of existing difficulties, the ministry is looking at adding essential commodities to the list of subsidized items for consumers.

The government will also withdraw trading licenses from retailers who over-charge for cornmeal- the country’s staple food.

According to the WFP, a poor harvest in 2014-15, a historic drought in 2015-16, and the second-worst cyclone on record in 2019 have taken a toll on Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector.

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“The consequences for the population are dire, chiefly because 80% of Zimbabweans depend almost entirely on rain to feed their crops and livestock,” the WFP says.

In March last year, the Zimbabwean government had announced seven months of grain reserves, including corn, and looked to begin imports to offset a potential deficit.

Neighbouring countries including South Africa, had also seen harvests curbed by dryness. The bulk of the country’s corn use is for human consumption, mainly from white corn. 

Mexico and the US were identified as likely suppliers in the tender, according to Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at South Africa’s Agricultural Business Chamber. 

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Zimbabwe consumes about 2.2 million metric tons of corn a year for humans and farm animals.

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