ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe expects cereal production to drop to 800,000 tonnes in the 2023/24 summer cropping season, a whopping 65% decline from 2.3 million tonnes last year,  owing to the El Nino-induced drought.

Obert Jiri, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, told a parliamentary committee that dry-land maize and most traditional grains were a complete write-off.

He said the expected production output is far below the country’s annual need of 2.2 million tonnes for both human and livestock consumption.

So this year we have a deficit owing to drought,” he said.

To mitigate the effects of drought, Jiri said the private sector has been encouraged to import grain to augment local supplies.

Recently, the Zimbabwean government, in partnership with donor agencies, announced that it has started food distribution to about 2.7 million people, or just over a quarter of the rural population as a cushion to cope with the drought.

In addition, the government has also liberalized the importation of grain at the household level in a move to guarantee national food security.

Dr Jenfan Muswere, the Minister for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services revealed this after attending a Cabinet meeting this week 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.

Dr Muswere said the Cabinet also considered and adopted the report on the preliminary food security outlook, April 2024-March 2025, presented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka.

Dr Masuka revealed that the cabinet deliberated that the private sector must continue to import maize for human consumption, adding that if they wish to import genetically modified maize they can do so, but that must be under strict supervision.

According to him, Zimbabwe was one of the first countries in the Sadc region to put in place a GMO (genetically modified organism) policy in 1998 and formed the National Biotechnology Authority. The country allows GMOs to be imported under a very strict framework.

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