ZIMBABWE – The Zimbabwean government forecasts staple maize production will drop 72% in the 2023/24 season, worsening the country’s food situation due to an El Nino induced drought.

The forecast is according to the Government’s Second Round of Crops, Livestock and Fisheries Assessment report released on May, 8.

The report estimates maize production at 634,699 tonnes for the season ending 31 May 2024 from 2,298,281 produced in the previous season, a 72% decrease.

This comes as Zimbabwe is grappling with a shortfall of 1,108,425 tons of grain, with 7.7 million people in the country in dire need of food aid.

The region is reeling from its worst drought in 40 years, owing to a combination of the naturally occurring El Nino and higher average temperatures produced by greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, the nation declared the ravaging drought a national disaster, after Zambia and Malawi made similar pronouncements.

Zimbabwe needs 2.2 million tons of cereal annually for both human and livestock consumption

To cover the deficit, Zimbabwe’s government plans to import grain, with its private millers looking to source 1.4-million MT of white and yellow maize in the next two months from Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Argentina and America.

In addition, the country has appealed for US$2bn (R37bn) from humanitarian agencies and well-wishers to feed millions.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has said the government would reallocate some budgeted funds from other portfolios to fund grain importation.

Meanwhile, government of Zimbabwe has released the Winter Cereal Production Plan as part of El Niño-induced drought mitigation efforts.

According to the plan, contractors are expected to plant 123 500 hectares for an estimated yield of 624 000 metric tonnes of wheat, while the targeted area for planting barley is 7 000 hectares.

Maize/sorghum is expected to cover 3,250 hectares, and potato planting is expected in warmer areas in August.

In addition, the government has announced a 31 percent reduction in water charges for irrigation farmers as part of the strategies to ensure a successful winter wheat season.

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