Drought: Private maize importers expect to bring in 1.4m tonnes by 2025

(pic: The Nation)

Zimbabwean grain millers plan to import 1.4 million tonnes of maize into the country by July next year following a drought that has battered output. 

Since last October, GMAZ has imported 427,000 tonnes of maize into the country, with current monthly inflows averaging 100,000 metric tonnes. The millers will tap supplies from Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Argentina and the US, Zimbabwe Grain Millers Association Chairman Tafadzwa Musarara said Thursday. 

The El Nino weather phenomenon has triggered a dry spell in southern Africa that has slashed South Africa’s maize crop by at least 20% and Zimbabwe’s by about 60%. Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have declared states of national disaster because of the agriculture failures. 

Zimbabwe consumes about 2.2 million tons of maize annually, but this year will probably only produce 868,273 tons, according to government estimates. White maize is a staple for meals, while the yellow variety is used for animal feed. Unlike yellow maize, which is readily available internationally, white isn’t. 

A delegation of Zimbabwean millers will be in Sao Paulo to meet with counterparts from the Brazil Grain Exporters Association to negotiate and conclude supply agreements of both white and yellow maize as well as rice. They will also meet with suppliers of industrial grain equipment, he said. 

Preparing for the worst

The imports will allow private players to maintain grain stock for sale. National Foods, the country’s biggest maize meal producer, said recently it would import maize to maintain supplies.

“National Foods has a substantial import program in place for raw maize, and it is expected that supplies to the market will be consistent for the foreseeable future,” Natfoods said. “The current summer crop has been seriously impacted by the ongoing drought affecting the region, and the necessary planning is now underway to ensure consistent product supply over the next year.”

For government, the Grain Marketing Board had in stock 145,604 tonnes of maize, 43,964 tonnes of traditional grains and 244,705 tonnes of wheat, according to a report in March. In 2022, the government ended the Grain Marketing Board’s monopoly on maize marketing by allowing farmers to sell grain to licensed buyers.

Bloomberg (additional reporting by newZWire)