HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Due to drought conditions, Zimbabwe’s 2019-20 corn crop is forecast to decline by 54% from the previous year to 776,635 tonnes, according to a June 18 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As a result, the USDA estimated that Zimbabwe will have to import about 1 million tonnes of corn in 2019-20 to meet domestic demand and maintain the mandated strategic grain reserve of 500,000 tonnes.
“Countries that could supply Zimbabwe with corn include Tanzania, Mexico and limited amounts from South Africa,” the USDA said. “Zimbabwe’s policy on Genetically Engineered (GE) corn allows for imports if milled into flour under government supervision. Cultivation of GE corn is still prohibited.”
In 2018-19, Zimbabwe produced 1.7 million tonnes of corn, which was a 21% decrease from the prior year when it produced a 20-year high of 2.2 million tonnes.
Zimbabwe only imported an estimated 100,000 tonnes of corn in 2018-19, according to the USDA.
The USDA noted that in addition to climatic challenges, high prices and cash availability limited the purchases of inputs by most Zimbabwe farmers.
The country already is facing a crisis in wheat availability as stocks have drastically declined, according to a June 17 statement from the Grain Milers Association of Zimbabwe. Officials are concerned that this could lead to shortages of fresh bread.
The association said it is in contact with the Reserve of Zimbabwe to unlock wheat consignments that are in Beira and Harare.
“We are also constantly updating our key stakeholders who include bakers on the obtaining situation,” said Garikai Chaunza, media and public relations manager for the association. “We are also jointly working with the bakers in engaging the authorities on a number of issues that would improve bread supplies.”
Scarcity in foreign currency and insufficient imports to meet demand has many firms relying on the central bank to provide foreign currency, New Zimbabwe reported. This has negatively impacted manufacturing since many firms rely on imports for production.
The Standard reported that a leading bakery has suspended operations. Bread prices have gone up more than three times this year.
The government has blamed the situation on cartels, which it said have monopolies in the industry. Government officials have said the shortages are artificial.