Zimbabwe’s government is holding 321,000 tonnes of maize in strategic reserves, just over half of its optimal requirements and enough to last three months, the agriculture minister said on Tuesday.
More than 4 million people require food aid this year after the southern African nation experienced its worst drought in a quarter century, which has worsened economic woes.
Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, said in a statement that farmers delivered 207,000 tonnes of the staple maize worth $81 million to the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR), with the balance made up of imports.
The SGR, which is managed by the government, should hold 500,000 tonnes of maize at any given time but the country has struggled to meet the target over the last decade as yields fell and farmers opt for higher value crops like tobacco.
Zimbabwe consumes on average 100,000 tonnes of maize every month, according to the Grain Millers Association.
“The current SGR has 321,000 tonnes of maize which gives a substantial support. In terms of maize and wheat stock, if we include the private sector, then we have reasonable supply,” Made said.
The El Nino-induced drought that hit southern Africa has been particularly bad for Zimbabwe, where dam levels have fallen to 42 percent, forcing the two biggest cities, Harare and Bulawayo, to start scheduled water cuts. [nL8N1CY5M]
Zimbabwe is importing maize from South Africa, Zambia and Argentina, straining scarce foreign currency resources and one of the reasons the central bank blames for causing a severe shortage of cash in the economy.