ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe’s maize harvest is expected to fall 70%, its lowest level in nearly a decade after drought decimated crops, according to recent estimates announced by the Ministry of Agriculture. 

In its outlook report, the Ministry projects that maize production would stand at 696,116 tonnes at the end of the 2023/2024 campaign which will end next July, down from the 2.3 million tonnes that was estimated for 2023.

In Zimbabwe, maize is the main cereal grown and consumed. however, the expected production output is far below the country’s annual need of 2.2 million tonnes for both human and livestock consumption.

The predicted stock, in addition, would represent a drop of 36% compared to the forecasts of 1.1 million tonnes made last December and 50% compared to the harvest of 1.4 million tonnes achieved during the previous campaign.

This would be the smallest harvest since 2016, 8 years ago, when Zimbabwe produced just 512,000 tonnes.

This poor performance is attributable to the repercussions of the El Niño climatic phenomenon. According to the ministry, the induced drought contributed to reducing the areas devoted to corn cultivation by more than 210,000 hectares compared to the previous campaign, to around 1.7 million hectares. 

“In 2022/2023, the provinces of Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East were the two main suppliers of maize. “As farmers in these two provinces have received low rainfall, our assessment indicates that the Midlands province will have the largest harvest this season,” said the Ministry of Agriculture. 

This decline in domestic maize production is expected to increase Zimbabwe’s reliance on imports. 

Recently, the government of Zimbabwe liberalized the importation of grain at the household level as part of a raft of measures aimed at mitigating the effects of the El Nino-induced drought and guaranteeing national food security.

Dr Jenfan Muswere, the Minister for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services revealed this after attending a Cabinet meeting in early March, where food security was one of the major issues discussed.

According to the Minister, the new measures will take effect in July and will include duty waivers on importing rice, maize, potato seed, cooking oil and genetically modified maize for stock feed, whose milling and distribution will be strictly supervised.

He added that the Cabinet also emphasised the need to support and promote local wheat production for direct consumption, for a swap with maize to meet maize demand for the nation.

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