AGRICULTURE minister Joseph Made is under intense fire for poor planning and ineptitude as it emerged this week that due to a poor harvest Zambia is no longer in a position to sell Zimbabwe 700 000 tonnes of maize which would cost the cash-strapped government more than US$200 million.
elias mambo/Wongai Zhangazha
Government sources said President Robert Mugabe, who during Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium assured Zimbabweans no one would starve as a result of the drought, took a swipe at Made over the food security situation as he has been informing the nation that government would be able to provide maize to avert a food crisis.
The country has about 150 000 metric tonnes in reserves against a national requirement of 1,8 million tonnes.
“Mugabe told Made to find a solution to the crisis that the country is in following Zambia’s withdrawal of its offer to sell maize,” the source said. “Mugabe had no kind words for his minister who wants to buy maize every year without providing a lasting solution to the food security issue.”
Last week Made told the parliamentary thematic committee on peace and security government would not declare the drought that is experienced by many southern parts of the country as a national disaster, and instead would import grain to prevent a food crisis.
He was speaking on the food situation and measures against hunger and poor yields that his ministry would take.
Made said government would import 742 226 metric tonnes of maize from neighbouring countries after a 42% maize yield deficit this year compared to the 2013/14 agricultural season.
He said the first round crop assessment report indicated 1 531 000 hectares of maize was planted but 300 000 hectares were a write-off, and for millet 182 000 hectares were planted while 14 000 hectares were a write-off. For sorghum 200 000 were planted but 31 000 hectares were a write-off.
Asked in parliament why government has not declared the situation a national disaster, Made said the drought had mainly affected the southern part of the country and it was too early to declare an emergency.
“We are not at a stage yet to indicate whether this is a disaster or not,” he said adding government would issue permits to the private sector, non-governmental organisations and the World Food Programme to import grain.
A maize production report for Southern Africa released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) recently said nearly 300 000 hectares under maize in the country were a write-off because of the dry spell and the estimated 35 % decline in maize output was the worst in the region.