REPRESENTATIVE bodies of companies in the agro-processing industry are combining forces to fight food imports from neighbouring countries which have weakened the companies’ competitiveness.
Food imports, mainly from South Africa land in Zimbabwe cheaper than locally produced products because Zimbabwe is using a stronger currency in the US dollar.
Worse still, the companies in the agro-processing sector are importing grain for value addition and beneficiation and this makes their prices slightly more than imported products produced in countries using weaker currencies.
In light of the challenge and in a bid to nip the food imports the Grains and Oils Seeds Traders Association and the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe are putting together a comprehensive plan to be discussed at a joint meeting of the two organisations set for next week.
The counter-strategy is expected to contain measures to contain imports and strengthen the sector.
The GMAZ and GOTAZ meeting comes in the wake of revelations that Zimbabwe has issued 68 permits for the importation of 140 000 metric tonnes of maize meal valued at an estimated $60 million since the beginning of the year.
Agro-processors argue that Government should discourage the importation of processed food which has may render their sector redundant. Once the sector becomes redundant, jobs would be lost, the organisations have argued.
The GMAZ and GOTAZ meeting, scheduled for next Wednesday will also tackle issues relating to contract farming. This is influenced by the threat posed by the cheap imports which discourage contract farming.
Cheaper imported food products make it impossible for local companies which in the past have been strong in contract farming to provide the services this year.
The meeting is expected to brainstorm on the National Railways of Zimbabwe situation and its preparedness to rail maize from Maputo
and Beira in light of the industrial action by workers at the national rail carrier.
NRZ workers have been on strike for close to two weeks in a bid to push management to settle their salaries which they are owed. The workers say that they have not been paid for more than 14 months.
Further to the discussion on the plan to curtail maize meal imports, wheat contract farming 2016, other issues expected to feature at the GMAZ and GOTAZ include an update on Beira logistics and 2015/6 maize producer price and collection points.
The organisations are also expected to tackle issues relating to GMO maize importation (November 2016 to June 2017) and the SAZ Certification of local flour ahead of December 31, 2016 import deadline.