STATE-assisted farming programmes have helped reduce maize imports by 71 percent in 11 months to November 2022, latest official statistics show.
According to figures from the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (Zimstats), the country’s maize import bill dropped by 71,3 percent to US$31,9 million, from US$111,3 million.
Due to perennial climate change -induced droughts, Zimbabwe has been importing an average of 100 000 tonnes per month from the region and as far as South America.
Despite the lift on the ban on imports in February last year, Zimbabwe kept its maize import bill low, with analysts suggesting it was a step in right the direction towards making Zimbabwe self-sufficient in grain.
Maize is the country’s main staple and 2,2 million tonnes are required human consumption and stockfeeds annually.
The bulk of the imported maize was for livestock as the country has enough for human consumption.
To boost the production of maize, the Government introduced Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, a climate-proofed farming method that helps keep crops hydrated longer than those planted using conventional tillage methods.
Under the programme, the Government provides free inputs, including seed and fertiliser, to smallholder farmers participating in the programme.
In light of the adverse impacts of climate change; causing erratic rains and longer dry spells, the farming technique has helped boost yields and enhanced the country’s food and nutrients security.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr John Bhasera, said smallholder farmers using the farming technique achieved an average yield of 5,3 tonnes per hectare in 2020-2021 season against the average small-scale farmer yield of 1,16 tonnes.
The difference was also evident in the 2021-22 season, where Pfumvudza farmers produced 0,57 tonnes more per hectare.
The highest amount spent on maize imports was US$5,7 million in August 2022, compared to about US$32 million spent in February 2021, according to the statistics.
The Government said the country has enough grain supply until the next harvest.
As of December 5, 2022, the country had about 551 000 tonnes of grain in stock, made up of 472 950 tonnes of maize and 78 082 tonnes of traditional grains, according to official figures.
Based on the country’s forecasted monthly consumption rate of 49 295 tonnes, the available grain will last for 11,2 months, time good enough for another crop to be harvested.
“It may look like it is nothing (the saving), but if you put it into perspective you will see how it impacts the current account,” Harare-based economist Dr Prosper Chitambara said.
“Not importing much like before will leave us in a better foreign currency position.”
Another economist, Mr Tinevimbo Shava, said while the country was moving closer to self-sufficiency in terms of maize production, the focus should now be on lengthening the supply cover to insulate the nation from potential back-to-back droughts.
“It is good to note that the country now has enough grain to cover until the end of the next harvesting season,” said Mr Shava in an interview on Thursday.
“What we now need is to get ourselves in a position where we start building reserves enough to cover both domestic and livestock requirements for about two years.”
Early last year, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Dr John Mangudya, said the reduction of maize imports would result in the country saving more than US$300 million per year.
Dr Mangudya said money saved from grain imports would be channelled towards productive sectors of the economy such as agriculture and manufacturing. – Herald