Report: Zimbabwe expects maize harvest to fall 70% to lowest levels in nearly a decade

Low harvests: GMB’s grain storage facilities in Bulawayo (Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lungelo Ndhlovu)

Zimbabwe’s maize harvest will come in 70% lower than last season after drought decimated crops, the Ministry of Agriculture says.

An outlook report by the Ministry projects that Zimbabwe will produce about 696,116 tonnes of maize, down from the 2.3 million tonnes that was estimated for 2023. This would be the smallest harvest since 2016, when Zimbabwe produced just 512,000 tonnes. An earlier report by government last week said maize hectarage fell by 12% this season as farmers planted less.

The Grain Marketing Board, which was stripped of its monopoly to buy maize last year, has in stock 145,604 tonnes of maize, 43,964 tonnes of traditional grains and 244,705 tonnes of wheat, says the report. The country needs 1.8 million tonnes of maize for food and 400,000 tonnes for stock feed.

“The Government should aim to close the gap of 318,723 tonnes while the private sector can import as much as they want. Combining maize, traditional grains and wheat, the strategic grain reserve is 434,293 tonnes excluding the Russia donation to the President of 25,000 tonnes,’’ the Ministry reports.

Maize production by province

Last year, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East produced the most maize. This year, farmers in these two traditionally strong farm provinces were hit by low rainfall. The assessment says the Midlands will have the biggest harvest.

Mash West is projected to produce 290,005 tonnes, down from 523,023 last year. Mash East’s harvest is expected at 225,675 tonnes, from 415,574 tonnes last year. Midlands will produce 381,056 tonnes, compared to 414,249 tonnes in 2023. The projection for Mashonaland Central is 207,966 tonnes from 342,249 tonnes. Among the hardest hit provinces is Mat North, where the area planted under maize fell by 30%; the province will produce 95,726 tonnes this year, after it performed better than expected last year with 82,739 tonnes.