Govt scraps duty on grain imports as severe hunger gnaws

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By Thandiwe Garusa

GOVERNMENT has removed duty on grain imports as a way of ensuring availability of essential foodstuffs.

This was announced at a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare Thursday by acting Information Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.

Ndlovu, who is substantive Toursim Minister, said government has liberalised the importation of wheat flour in particular as erratic bread shortages continue to dog the country.

“Cabinet noted the need to ensure the continued availability of essential foodstuffs at the market and to counter the effects of drought that was experienced during the 2018- 2019 agricultural season.

“Accordingly, cabinet has resolved to implement removal of control of goods and import services for maize grain, maize meal and wheat flour with immediate effect.”

He added, “Placement of wheat flour on the open general import licence with immediate effect and suspension of all import duties currently applicable on the following products as indicated.

“Wheat flour in packaging of more than 50kg the current rate is 20% and the new rate will be 0% duty; wheat flour in packages of less that 50kg currently the duty is 10%, the new rate will be 0%; maize meal, the current rate is 25%, the new rate will be 0%. So, they are fully exempt.

“Millers and commercial users of grain are also hereby informed that following the pronouncement in the 2020 national budget, the subsides on grains have been removed with immediate effect.

“In essence, all users of grain including the millers will now buy grain as cost price which currently stands at $12 000 for maize and small grains and $8 612,8 for wheat per metric tonne.

“Government will also be unveiling a mechanism for targeted subsidies for basic foodstuffs, particularly roller maize meal and fresh flour as outlined in the 2020 budget statement once the final details of the mechanism are worthy out.

“This is intended as an additional cushion for vulnerable households and the generality of Zimbabweans.”

Millions of Zimbabweans face starvation, according to independent assessments, due to severe drought ravaging the country.

Zimbabwe is also yet to fully recover from its land reform process as it still imports grain, a contrasting situation with the pre-2000 period in which the country used to produce surplus.