Zimbabwe is to start shipping 17,000 tonnes of maize from Tanzania on Monday under an agreement with the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) and Zambian rail.
TAZARA, Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) and the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) on Wednesday signed a joint agreement with the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to transport the maize from Makambako and Vwawa in southern Tanzania to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
TAZARA will relay the grain to ZRL at New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia, before it is passed to NRZ at Livingstone for final delivery into Zimbabwe, said a joint statement issued Wednesday in Dar es Salaam.
“The entire tonnage is expected to be transported within three months, starting from September 9, 2019,” said the statement.
The 17,000 MT contract could be extended to 83,000 MT, if successfully executed, according to TAZARA CEO.
Bruno Ching’andu, TAZARA managing director, said TAZARA had allocated 100 wagons for transporting the maize and the other two railways have also allocated a total of 100 wagons.
“We will move the cargo in the required time frame,” Ching’andu said.
TAZARA, jointly owned by the governments of Tanzania and Zambia, runs a 1,860km line that connects landlocked Zambia to the seaport of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and further provides road and railway inter-connectivity to other parts of southern Africa.
Tanzania, with a sizable maize surplus, has offered to sell some grain to Zimbabwe, which is looking plug a 700,000 tonne deficit through imports after a drought-hit 2018/19 cropping season.
Tanzania lifted a grain export ban in August in anticipation of a grain glut from the 2018 season, although officials have recently tempered their projections after forecasts of dry conditions in 2019 raised the need to stock up for what could be a less productive year.
With estimated annual maize consumption of just under four million tonnes, Tanzania has exceeded five million tonne production per year since 2012.
Grain imports will exert more pressure on Zimbabwe’s already strained foreign currency requirements and widen its current account, according to analysts Fitch Solutions.
“Food and fuel imports will remain elevated over the coming quarters, with domestic production of key goods constrained by drought and power shortages lasting up to 19 hours a day,” Fitch said in a report released on September 2.
Rainfall across the region is forecast to be normal in the first half of the coming season, according to a regional forecast released on August 30. Zimbabwe is among countries that will see normal to below normal rainfall in the second half of the cropping season from January to March. Parts of the region received their lowest rainfall since 1981, according to the UN.
In Zimbabwe, the drought has left up to 3.7 million people in rural areas and a further 2.2 million in urban areas at risk. The country in August issued a US$331 million relief appeal.