By Alois Vinga/Richard Chidza
ZIMBABWE is left with just seven month supply of grain a senior government official said Friday.
Despite claims from President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri, that government’s command agriculture programme had left the country with a surplus over and above what it required annually, secretary, Ringson Chitsiko revealed little is expected from the 2018/19 harvesting season.
Mnangagwa had declared no Zimbabwean will die of hunger but opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa on Thursday said the Zanu PF government had sent out a begging bowl to feed half the country’s population.
Chamisa told delegates to the launch of a book co-written by MDC deputy national chairman Tendai Biti that Mnangagwa’s command agriculture programme has failed.
“President (Olusegun) Obasanjo, there is a programme in this country called Command Agriculture. It is meant to feed the people but the government has asked the international community to help feed at least seven million people.
“Last year they claimed they have so much grain they were struggling for space but the same government now is crying out for help,” Chamisa said.
Obasanjo co-wrote the book: Democracy Works, with Biti and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among others.
Addressing stakeholders at a Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) extra ordinary meeting on drought assessment Friday, Chitsiko confirmed the Zimbabwe is facing a dire situation.
“It is not a secret that we probably have up to seven months supply of grain including the strategic grain reserve but you know that as a country we always want to be in a surplus position so that with or without a favorable season.
“Our situation with regards to the grain situation must always be positive,” Chitsiko said.
The agriculture secretary said the grain stocks only related to that which is at Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Depots. He added some farmers and households could still be holding some grain at a personal level.
Reports however claim most Zimbabweans in the rural areas could be on the verge of starvation and now relying on donor agencies.
Government last month announced it would introduce the food for work programme meant to help starving villagers get access to grain through after working on State projects like road rehabilitation.
Zimbabwe’s 2018/2019 season is almost a write-off with the country in the grip of an Elnino induced drought and ironically killer floods in the eastern parts of the country after a tropical storm known as Cyclone Idai.
The United Nations estimates that currently more than 5 million people are now in need of food aid.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president, Denford Mutashu urged government be open about the country’s desperate grain situation.
“There is need for being truthful and accurate in disclosing the figures related to the maize situation because there have been circumstances where assurances were given but when the time of need arrived, the nation could not get the promised quantities,” he said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Rosemary Siachitema called on government to take matters related to climate change seriously by investing in irrigation infrastructure and stop making empty commitments.
“Why does it appear that every time we appear to be trying to come to terms with the reality of our problems just like the issue of climate change which even after more that ten years since knowing about the phenomena we still talk as if it is a new thing?
“What is stopping the country from just doing what needs to be done because all the meetings we attend seem to be addressing the same issues,” Siachitema asked rhetorically.
Chitsiko however said Mnangagwa’s government is now taking a facilitative role and urged citizens to desist from the culture of waiting for the authorities alone to solve the problems.