POOR harvest and lack of fertilizer in the last season left the country with severely depleted grain reserves African Development Bank (AfDB) said in its Zimbabwe monthly economic review for March.
According to the report released this week, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had 92,000 tonnes of maize in its reserves and has since stopped selling to millers, reserving the grain for the grain loan scheme.
Millers require 150 000 tonnes to meet the consumer demand before the new harvest lands on the market.
“This grain shortage has pushed up maize-meal prices. The supply of grain under the grain loan scheme is erratic and inconsistent. This is because the reserved grain is insufficient and transporters are not willing to move it to the affected areas, as they are not paid on time,” said AfDB.
Usually, traders import maize from Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, but transport costs involved in moving the grain from these countries to Zimbabwe make it expensive compared to buying it from the GMB.
In addition, Zambia is currently facing food shortages and has imposed a temporary export restriction on grain.
“The crop situation in the current season, particularly in the southern parts of the country, is poor due to recurring droughts. Seventy-five percent of the crop in Masvingo was written off last season due to the dry spell,” said AfDB.
The government estimated that at least 1,6 million people would face food insecurities between January and March 2013.
The Famine and Early Warning Systems Network revealed this represents a 60 percent increase in the number of people in need of food compared to the same period last year.
AfDB said government needs to come up with strategies to ensure that grain reserves are well stocked and that transporters are paid on time so as to avoid unnecessary food shortages in some parts of the country.
“Government needs to not only intensify the presence of extension service officers but also their interaction with farmers in drier areas to encourage them to grow drought resistant crops, such as small grains,” AfDB.
AfDB said there was need to invest in research and development to come up with new drought resistant crops that adapt well to the changing weather conditions in these drier parts of the country.
“There is further need for long-term solutions to deal with food insecurity problems in these parts of the country. These could be the resuscitation of silted dams and construction of new ones, investment in community gardens, revamping irrigation schemes and livestock dip tanks, improving livestock practice and promoting conservation agriculture,” the bank said.