Good harvest knocks Zimbabwean imports bill




Employees load sacks of yellow maize onto a truck for shipping at the Kaap Agri Ltd. grain silo in Malmesbury, South Africa, on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. The World Bank said last week that it sees South Africa's economy growing 1.4 percent this year, up from 1.1 percent estimated in January. , Bloomberg

ZIMBABWE has started reaping the benefits of a stellar agricultural season after cereal imports, including maize, dropped to 1,9 percent in the five months to May 2021 from 9,1 percent in January, official statistics show.

Statistics from May’s trade report released by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (Zimstat) show that maize output for this season is projected at a record 2,7 million tonnes, about 193,1 percent up from 0,9 million tonnes produced in last season.

The maize output will be complemented by increases in the output of other grains, including sorghum, pear millet and finger millet, a situation that has led to low grain imports, especially after outright ban of maize shipments by the Government.  

Consequently, the bumper harvest achieved this year after the good rains received across the country will anchor low food and overall inflation decline, according to recent pronouncements by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

Central bank chief Dr John Mangudya is on record saying, due to the good harvest this year the country will save hundreds of millions of US dollars that were being spent on importing  cereals, particularly maize and wheat, which would now be channelled towards productive sectors.

 “In 2021, maize imports rose from 5,7 percent in January to 7,1  percent in February before declining to 3 percent in April, and further to 1,9 percent in May 2021,” Zimstat said.

This level of output surpasses the national cereal requirement of an estimated 1,8 million tonnes and 450 000 tonnes for human and livestock consumption, respectively.  

It is anticipated that about 1,9 million tons of grain, valued at $67,7 billion (Zimbabwe dollars), will be delivered to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) by t farmers country wide

 Broadly, given agriculture’s strategic position in the domestic economy, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said agriculture will drive projected growth of 7,8 percent this year, despite the long shadow of Covid-19.

Growth of the agriculture sector in 2021 was revised upwards, in the mid term fiscal policy delivered last month, on account of higher-than expected performance of almost all crops particularly maize, groundnuts, and sorghum.

The sector, which contributes about 16 percent to Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is estimated to grow by 34 percent, up from the original Budget projection of 11 percent.  

Zimbabwe’s major imports in May 2021 were machinery and mechanical appliances,  which stood at 15,5 percent .

This was followed by mineral fuels, mineral oils product category at 12,6 percent in May up from 10,6 percent in April 2021.

Other major imports in May 2021 included animal and vegetable fats (4,2 percent), plastics and articles (4,4 percent), fertilisers (3,5 percent) and pharmaceutical products including vaccines (3,7 percent).

Notably, the major imports in Zimbabwe were aggregated to reach 90,3 percent in May 2021.

May 2021 data shows that Zimbabwe’s main exports were nickel ores and concentrates 24,2 percent, tobacco 21,8 percent, semi manufactured gold (16,1 percent) and nickel mattes including platinum group of minerals (PGMs) 14,4 percent.

It was noted that major minerals produced in the country such as nickel concentrates, and nickel mattes were exported in a semi processed form while nickel ores (including PGMs) are exported in a raw form.

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s major trading partner. However, exports to South Africa declined from a peak of 61,2 percent in November 2020 to 39,7 percent in April 2021 before increasing to 53,3 percent in May 2021.

 Exports to the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe’s second largest trading partner, dropped to 18,7 percent in May 2021 from 25,5 percent in April 2021. – Herald