The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe’s strong grain reserves position, following good harvests in the past two years, will ensure enough supplies until the next harvest, in a development expected to see Zimbabwe maintaining a positive or near -balanced current account, economists say.
In economics, a country’s current account records the value of exports and imports of both goods and services and international transfers of capital. A positive balance means a country is getting more forex than it is losing it.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the country had enough grain to last until the next harvest.
“The nation is being informed that the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) grain stocks as at September 28, 2022, stand at 550 464 tonnes comprising 475 966 tonnes of maize and 74 498 tonnes of traditional grains.”
According to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, social welfare consumption is now budgeted at 15 000 tonnes per month while overall monthly consumption is projected at 40 000 tonnes.
In 2019, Zimbabwe imported US$125 million worth of grain to supplement local production.
The shipments jumped to US$282,5 million, as the country continued to lose precious foreign currency despite its huge agricultural potential.
According to Minister Mutsvangwa’s report, millers and stockfeed manufacturers are expected to import grain to cover the gap in their own requirements.
“Using this monthly rate of 40 000 tonnes, the available grain will last for 13,8 months, meaning that the country has sufficient grain to last until the next harvest in 2023,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
Economist Dr Prosper Chitambara said, “It sounds like it is nothing, but if you put it into perspective, you will see how it impacts the current account. Not importing much like before will leave us at a better foreign currency position. Recently, the central bank said we have a surplus foreign exchange position and these are some of the reasons.”
Economist Mr Tinevimbo Shava said Zimbabwe had sufficient grain reserves in the late 1980s, but the International Monetary Fund forced the country to liquidate them for cash.
“The decision led to food insecurity over the last 30-plus years, as we faced the challenge of feeding our people against a
background of scarce access to foreign currency.
“However, it is good to note that the country now has enough grain to cover until the end of the next harvesting season.
“What we now need is to get ourselves into a position where we start building reserves to be able to cover both domestic and livestock consumption for about two years,” he said.
Official Government statistics show that the cumulative grain intake since April 1, 2022, is valued at a total of $21,4 billion covering maize, wheat and traditional grains, with most farmers having been paid for their deliveries to GMB.
However, poultry farmer Ms Grace Chinomona said, “Stockfeed prices will still be pegged at previous levels. I don’t see any reduction despite the excess grain. Poultry stockfeed prices are currently pegged at between US$33,50 per 50 kilogramme bag and US$34 per bag.”
Economist Prof Tony Hawkins said, “Meat prices might increase in the short term until the next harvest in late March to early April if feed companies increase the amount of grain they are importing. However, it is a good thing that we will be importing far less than we were doing in the past two to three years.”
Current wheat stocks stand at 52 167 tonnes and are adequate to provide two months’ cover at a consumption rate of 21 000 tonnes per month.
Harvesting of the 2022 winter wheat crop has commenced in many parts of the country and preparations for purchasing the crop are underway, resulting in the country attaining wheat self-sufficiency. A total of 380 000 tonnes are expected to be harvested, 20 000 tonnes more than the national requirement.