Zimbabwe raises maize producer price by 75%

by Teresa Acklin
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   HARARE, ZIMBABWE — The Zimbabwean government in April raised the country's maize producer price by 75% in order to boost output and food security.

   Agriculture Minister Kumbirai Kangai announced the new minimum price of Z$4,900 (U.S.$128.60) a tonne for the 1999-2000 (April-March) marketing season, up from the current price of Z$2,400 a tonne, but Z$100 short of what farmers had asked for.

   Mr. Kangai said the new price should help stimulate maize production, keep farmers on the land and improve national food security. He also said it was important for the government — whose state Grain Marketing Board normally buys up to 50% of the country's maize output for resale or for strategic stocks — to set a healthy floor price to prevent millers from exploiting small-scale farmers. This year's maize output in Zimbabwe was expected to match last season's 1.5 million tonnes. However, excessive rain has resulted in a loss of 20% in potential yield, according to the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.

   Farmers have said that Zimbabwe could boost annual maize production to 2.4 million tonnes by removing the G.M.B.'s monopoly on exports and imports of the grain.

   Zimbabwe's domestic maize consumption has averaged 1.8 million tonnes annually over the last couple of years. Industry officials estimate the country might have to import 500,000 tonnes of maize this year to satisfy demand.