Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has started engaging service companies for import procurement contracts as local millers target importing 150,000 tonnes of maize per month until June next year.
This is in light of the drought situation that has already ravaged some parts of Zimbabwe and Sadc.
So far, nearly 7,000 cattle in Matabeleland South, Masvingo and the Midlands have died in recent weeks due to inadequate pastures and acute water shortages.
GMAZ chairman Tafadzwa Musarara said the first consignment of grain was expected from South Africa in about four weeks while grain from Brazil and Argentina would come in the next 90 days.
“We’ve already started to do position contracts or procurement contracts of maize from South Africa but most of it is Brazilian and American maize which of course conforms to Zimbabwean minimum standards.
“We’re now busy working with service support companies like the National Railways of Zimbabwe, CFM of Mozambique and the ports authorities in Beira, Mozambique to ensure that when this maize starts to come in, we’ll be able to rail it as quickly as possible,” he said.
Musarara said the millers’ association was also courting a number of development partners to mobilise funding for long-term grain procurement.
“We’re currently talking to a number of development partners who would want to provide funding to industries to be able to buy as much maize as possible into inter-land.
“We’re looking forward to bringing in at least 150,000 tonnes of maize per month until June 30, 2017,” he said.
“However, we believe that there’s a possibility that the shortfall might continue beyond that period and we continue to remain vigilant and also ready to continue with the importation beyond 2017.
“We’re strategically procuring this maize in a manner that we make sure it lands at reasonable price so that we don’t have to increase the prices of mealie-meal and stockfeeds which of course will affect the prices of meat, milk and eggs”.
Considering that not only Zimbabwe is threatened by drought, Musarara said GMAZ hopes that Sadc will convene an urgent meeting to discuss the drought crisis and see how regional countries can core share infrastructure so that each country gets the maize it requires.
He said the millers were also pleased to note that the government had indicated that it would be importing 280,000 tonnes of grain for vulnerable groups.
“We’re happy that the government on its own is importing 280,000 tonnes which we believe is going to be more for vulnerable groups . . . so when we (millers) import, we’re importing for commercial milling so the two programmes are complementary to each other and we’ve no doubt that the government is going to put more resources.
“We’re ready to work with our government to ensure that adequate maize stocks are imported into the country,” said Musarara.
The country requires 1.8 million tonnes of grain for human and livestock consumption per year.
Over the years, Zimbabwe and Sadc have been negatively affected by the adverse effects of climate change resulting in the country and the region receiving erratic rainfall, denting agricultural output.