Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has moved more than 250 000 tonnes of freight between April and September this year benefiting from the intensified grain importation programme.
Due to the El Nino induced drought, the country continues importing maize from regional and international producers to avert starvation.
NRZ board chairman Mr Larry Mavima told Business Chronicle that the grain import programme by the Government and private millers had generated business for the rail company.
In this regard, he said, NRZ was targeting to transport between 700 000 tonnes and one million tonnes of grain imports from the ports into the country.
“Since April, we have moved in excess of 250 000 tonnes of grain from various ports such as Maputo, Durban and Beira into Zimbabwe. We are looking forward to moving between 700 000 tonnes and one million tonnes of grain by the end of the year,” Mr Mavima said.
The parastatal, which has a legacy debt of about $144 million, has also been faced with operational inefficiencies owing to the prevailing economic climate.
The viability of the NRZ is largely dependent on industry’s productivity, which at the moment is low because of the challenges facing the economy.
According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector in 2015 closed the year at 34,3 percent.
In July, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo announced that the Government is crafting a legal instrument to ban the transportation of bulky goods by road in order to protect the country’s road network and boost NRZ operations.
Turning to the proposed ban of haulage trucks on the country’s roads, Mr Mavima said: “The Railways Act talks about agricultural goods and minerals being allowed to be moved by rail. But when we de-regulated, trucks started moving bulky goods. In order for NRZ to come back on track, we also need to ban the transportation of bulky goods by haulage trucks. Apart from competing with NRZ, the haulage trucks damage our road infrastructure. Despite the toll fees which the truckers are paying, the fees are just a pittance.”
At its peak, the NRZ could move between 100 000 tonnes and 150 000 tonnes of cargo per week but presently, it is moving below the above figures.