Oliver Kazunga, Acting Business Editor
THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe says Covid-19-induced restrictions are constraining grain movement as millers this year seek to import an estimated 250 000 tonnes of wheat to supplement local production.
Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries around the world have enforced a raft of measures that include national lockdowns, travel restrictions and border closures as part of efforts to contain the pandemic.
Responding to written questions from Business Chronicle yesterday, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said the Government has deemed the milling industry an essential service thereby allowing players in the sector to operate 24 hours daily where necessary.
“Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a flurry of legislated restrictions both locally and internationally.
“Primarily this is affecting our grain importation. For instance, Botswana government’s tough restrictions have made it impossible to transit maize via Botswana.
“This has consequently resulted in congestion at Beitbridge and slowing down of grain imports,” he said.
Locally, Mr Musarara said the movement of goods and persons are restricted as a result of the 6AM and 6PM curfew.
“This slows down movement of deliveries nationwide,” said the GMAZ boss.
Following successive drought years, Zimbabwe has been forced to import maize and wheat to cover the deficit.
The country requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize annually.
“We are continuing to establish and execute continuous grain supply pipelines and significant quantities continue to come in. In light of the imminent bumper crop, we don’t anticipate to import maize once harvesting for this season starts, said Mr Musarara.
He however, said the millers expect to import 250 000 tonnes of wheat this year to supplement local production.
Zimbabwe needs at least 400 000 tonnes of wheat a year and Government says its target is to produce enough to meet local demand and even surplus for export in line with its vision of attaining an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
The Government has announced the intent to work on the multiplication of wheat seed in preparation for the 2021-2022 summer wheat cropping season.
In the 2020 winter cropping season, farmers planted 45 000 hectares of wheat producing about 100 000 tonnes of the crop.
In the 2019 winter cropping season, wheat farmers produced 90 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 310 000 tonnes. — @okazunga