Zimbabwe expects a 58% increase in maize harvests, raises GDP forecasts

Farmer Boniface Mutize inspects his maize crop at his farm in Domboshava, March 21,2022 (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

The government is raising its forecasts for economic growth this year, basing its optimism on an anticipated 58% increase in maize output.

Zimbabwe’s maize harvest will be 2 298 281 metric tonnes this year, a 58% increase from the 2021-2022 season, which was hit by poor rainfall. This year’s harvest is lower than the 2 717 171 tonnes produced in the 2020/2021 season, which was the highest in years.

“Gross Domestic Product is now expected to increase from the current projection of 4% to 6% on account of the positive performance of the agricultural sector. Accordingly, Government will assist farmers in processing and marketing their produce,” Cabinet said Wednesday.

The government’s optimism is contrary to recent forecasts by the International Monetary Fund, which is more pessimistic about Zimbabwe’s economy.

In its World Economic Outlook released last week, the IMF slightly shaved its 2023 growth forecasts for Zimbabwe to 2.5%, slower than the 2.8% it had projected late last year. The IMF says the Zimbabwe economy grew by 3% last year, lower than the government’s estimates of 4%.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube estimates that agriculture shrank by 14% last year, weighing down growth, but he had previously forecast the sector to recover by 4%.

The total cereal production is forecast at 2 579 247 MT, against a national cereal requirement of 1 837 742 MT for human consumption and 450 000 MT for livestock, said Cabinet. In his Independence Day speech, President Emmerson Mnangagwa had given a forecast of 3.2 million metric tonnes of cereals for the 2022-3 season.

National Foods, the country’s biggest maize miller, reported recently that the six months to December had been mixed in terms of maize supply.

“Maize volumes declined by 6% versus the prior year. The performance was very much a tale of two quarters, with volumes declining by 26% in the first quarter but increasing by 13% in the second quarter when compared to last year,” the company said in its results for the half year. “Volumes in the first quarter were impacted by various distortions in procuring local maize, and recovered strongly in the second quarter as the locally available maize supplies dried up and maize supplies were accessed from GMB and imports.”

While government has said the country is now food secure, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, which combines state and donor agencies, is targeting 3.8 million people projected to be at risk of hunger this year.

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