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Government budgets $62m for maize purchases - Made

07/03/2017 00:00:00
by Bloomberg
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made

ZIMBABWE has set aside $62m to buy maize from farmers with planting of the grain 55% higher than last year’s, and will seek funds for extra purchases, says Agriculture Minister Joseph Made.

The state-run Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) was told to raise $80m to fund further purchases of Zimbabwe’s staple food, Made has told MPs. He did not say how the money would be raised.

Zimbabwe, a net importer of maize, produced 1.3- million metric tonnes of the grain last year, compared with its 2.2 million-tonne annual requirements, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The government has sought to boost output after the country suffered food shortages last year with the worst drought in at least two decades.

State agencies including the AMA and the Grain Marketing Board have instructions to pay farmers $390 a ton for maize, as the government strives for higher output, Made said. At $390 a tonne, the $62m would buy 158,974 tonnes.

Zimbabwe’s farmers increased maize planting to 1.2-million hectares this season, including 150,000ha planted under a government programme overseen by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The plan sought to improve yields by improving access to fertilizers and pesticides. More than half of the maize grown through the programme was showing "very good" yield prospects, Made said.

About 10% of the country’s maize crop is threatened by fall armyworm, reported in other countries in the region including Zambia and SA.

The country may harvest 3-million tonnes of maize this year, beating its target significantly, Mnangagwa said on Sunday. That would be the largest harvest in at least 50 years, topping a 1980 record crop of 2.7 million tons, according to US Department of Agriculture and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data.

The estimate of 3-million tonnes is "enthusiastic but unlikely," said Ben Gilpin, an official at the Commercial Farmers Union. Unusually heavy rains were hampering harvesting of early planted corn and armyworms remained a threat, he said. "It’s a good crop, certainly, but 3-million tonnes seems very ambitious."


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