THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) says its members will import 200 000 tonnes of wheat to supplement national stocks as the country is only left with three months’ supply.
The millers said they are moving swiftly to import the cereal, adding that there is no need to panic.
GMAZ bought 200 000 tonnes of wheat from local farmers last year, produced under the Command Agriculture Programme and have already paid for 70 percent of the produce.
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, GMAZ chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said Government had given the green light for millers to import wheat.
“We are running out of local wheat stocks and we have commenced an importation programme of 200 000 tonnes for wheat to see us through the next wheat harvesting season.
“Flour supply will remain constant over the next three months,” he said.
Mr Musarara said they had already started working on the logistics at Beira port to start receiving imports by June 1, 2018 and for stocks to start building two weeks later.
“As we speak we are sitting on a 90-day wheat supply stock. That means wheat imports will start coming into the country before we run out of the cereal.”
In line with the Government’s open for business mantra, millers said they are working with the Embassy of Canada, one of the top five wheat producers in the world, to import wheat into the country.
Mr Musarara said he will soon lead a delegation to Canada where they will sign agreements for wheat imports. Millers expect to seal quarterly deals for the importation of 80 000 tonnes of wheat per batch until the country harvests its winter wheat.
Zimbabwe requires about 200 000 tonnes of wheat until then.
Wheat will now be directly imported to Zimbabwe, unlike previously when most consignments were imported via middlemen who would charge premiums.
“This in our view will remove the middleman whose participation in the value chain comes at a premium,” said Mr Musarara.
Previously, Zimbabwe relied on Russia for wheat and Thailand for rice, but now has a wide choice of suppliers to choose from.
Zimbabwe’s millers are now able to import wheat from anywhere in the world, including America, Canada and Australia.
This will allow Zimbabwe to get the cheapest wheat and other grains in short supply. This is likely to see the country experiencing more affordable prices.
However, the millers are facing challenges in accessing the foreign currency they require to pay for wheat imports, with backlogs dating back to December 2016.
Last year, Zimbabwe produced about 200 000 tonnes of wheat under Government’s Command Agriculture programme.
The country needs over 400 000 metric tonnes of wheat per annum. Most African countries are net importers of wheat since the continent is not endowed with the right climate for its production.