Zimbabwe to have sufficient maize stocks despite low production in 2018: agency

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HARARE: Zimbabwe is expected to have adequate maize stocks to last until the 2019 harvest even though maize production for 2017-18 season will most likely be below-average, according to a U.S. agency.

In its latest report, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said the country will benefit from high production last season which will avail carry-over stocks into the current season.

“National maize production from the 2016-17 cropping season was estimated at 2.16 million metric tonnes or 140 percent above the five-year average.

“As a result, national cereal stocks are expected to be atypically above-average for the remainder of the marketing year and into the 2018-19 marketing and consumption year,” FEWSNET said.

It said formal maize imports will likely be minimal during the February to September 2018 period.

The government has assured the nation that despite anticipated poor harvests this season, the Grain Marketing Board has sufficient stocks of the staple grain to meet domestic demand until the 2019 harvest.

FEWSNET, however, cautioned that there may be some cereal gap that may necessitate government to consider lifting the ban on maize imports.

Although government is still carrying out a crop assessment, maize production in 2018 is expected to be lower than last year due to below-normal rains during the first half of the cropping season and a prolonged and abnormally dry and hot spell in January.

FEWSNET said the dry spell, shortage and high cost of crop inputs and a fall armyworm outbreak are some of the factors that will impact on maize production this year.

“Fall armyworm infestations have been reported in all provinces during the current 2017-18 cropping season and the pest is expected to be a threat to some surviving crops for the remainder of the cropping season,” it said.

Following a bumper maize harvest last year, Zimbabwe has managed to restore its 750,000 tonnes strategic grain reserve which had been exhausted due to successive years of droughts.