‘National grain supplies critically low’

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NATIONAL maize supplies are critically low as a result of the poor 2019 harvest and limited ability for imports, USAid’s food security arm has said.

The poor 2018/19 season as a result of drought negatively affected maize harvests and left the country highly volatile to hunger. Exacerbating matters further is government’s continued failing policies that have left more people not only impoverished, but also hungry.

“National maize grain supplies are critically low as a result of poor 2019 harvest and limited ability for imports. Additionally, maize meal availability is extremely limited across the country following operational challenges experienced after the December 2019 re-introduction of the maize grain subsidy programme,” USAid’s food security arm, FEWS NET, in its January 2020 report has said.

“Most commercial millers have stopped producing both unrefined and refined maize meal. Where available maize meal is being sold on the black market at prices beyond the reach of most poor households.”

FEWS NET added: “The situation is of most serious concern in typical grain-deficit areas of the south and west where maize meal normally replaces maize grain as the primary purchased cereal”.

“The supply of vegetables on the markets has also been very low especially in the southern and western areas, resulting in above-average prices beyond poor households’ reach.”

According to FEWS NET, as a result of food access to food, some poor households are significantly reducing portion sizes or going for days without the preferred staple meal sadza made from maize.

Other households are resorting to preparing just porridge or cereal-based drinks, which require small portions of maize or other small grain meal.

Typically, during the peak of the lean season, most poor households’ basic food consumption comprises a meal or two of staple sadza and vegetables per day.

“Across most typical arid areas in Matabeleland North and South, Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland provinces, predominantly dry conditions continue, resulting in increased rainfall deficits ranging from 15% to 45% below average,” FEWS NET said.

“Any rainfall incidences in these areas have been highly erratic in space and time, and mainly showery. Cropped areas remained significantly below normal due to dryness and poor access to crop inputs.”

The continued poor macroeconomic environment also continues to be one of the key drivers of food insecurity in both rural and urban areas.

“The parallel market exchange rates in US dollar and Zimdollar terms continue to increase, influencing the prices of goods and services,” FEWS NET said.

“Cash shortages in the formal markets continue to affect poor households as well as some middle and better-off households, especially as non-cash prices in the informal and parts of the formal sectors attract high premiums up to 50% above cash prices.”

FEWS NET said high fuel and transport costs were impacting livelihoods and access to food.

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