World & Community

US says Zim must import 1 mln tons of maize to ease hunger

By Agencies

THE United States government says Zimbabwe might need to import one million metric tonnes of maize in the next agricultural season owing to the current El Niño-induced drought.

Southern Africa is currently reeling under an El Niño-induced drought, with some countries like Zimbabwe, hard hit.

Government recently declared a national disaster and requested more than US$2 billion in aid to combat the drought, way higher than other regional nations.

In a statement, the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service said the prediction was based on a 60% decline in crop production for the current season.

“Post-estimates (indicate) that Zimbabwe will have to import approximately 1,0 million metric tonnes (MMT) of corn in marketing year (MY) 2024/25 to meet food security demands. This calculation is based on an almost 60% drop in year-over-year corn production, to 635 000 metric tonnes (MT) and a domestic demand of approximately 1,9 MMT of corn,” the department said.

“Extreme drought conditions associated with the El Niño weather phenomenon resulted in total failure of more than half of the country’s planted corn area. Corn is the main staple food and the single most important crop in Zimbabwe. Corn production in Zimbabwe is dominated by smallholder farmers, who have limited access to irrigation technologies.”

The department said more than 90% of corn production was entirely dependent on rainfall, hence the effect of the El Niño drought.

“In the past, Zimbabwe depended on neighbouring countries like South Africa and Zambia for corn imports. In the 2023/24 MY, Zimbabwe imported almost 640 000 MT of corn from South Africa,” the department said.

“However, with South Africa’s corn crop also impacted by the drought, dropping by almost 20% and Zambia set to import at least 1,0 MMT of corn to meet domestic demand, supply in the southern Africa region will be tight in MY 2024/25. Hence, Zimbabwe will have to source some corn on the global market.”

The Zimbabwean government has announced plans to import corn, with the support of private millers, from Brazil, Russia, Argentina and the United States.

“While Zimbabwe allows genetically engineered (GE) corn imports, shipments must be quarantined before being milled into corn meal, the national staple,” the department said.

“Zimbabwe’s corn crop is expected to drop by 58% to 635 000 MT in MY 2024/25 (May 2024 to April 2025) due to extreme drought conditions resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon. The planting season started with a delayed onset of rainfall, resulting in a 12% drop in corn area planted.”

The department said rainfall continued to be below average, especially in the western region of the country, with prolonged dry spells.

“An extreme dry February that overlapped with crucial vegetative and flowering stages for corn resulted in total crop failure in many regions in Zimbabwe, including the northern provinces, which are typically high-yielding agricultural areas,” the department said.

The department added that more than 900 000 hectares of corn out of an estimated 1,8 million hectares of planted area was destroyed by the drought.

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