Zim to import 1 million metric tonnes of maize amid drought

Staff Writer

Zimbabwe will have to import approximately one million metric tonnes of maize in the marketing year 2024/25 to meet food security demands amid reduced yields due to an El Niño-induced drought, a new report reveals.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, the calculation is based on an almost 60 percent drop in year-over-year corn production, to 635,000 metric tonnes, and a domestic demand of approximately 1.9 million metric tonnes of maize.

Extreme drought conditions associated with the El Niño weather phenomenon resulted in the total failure of more than half of the country’s planted maize area.

The country’s maize crop is expected to drop by 58 percent to 635,000 metric tonnes in the marketing year 2024/25 (May 2024 to April 2025) due to extreme drought conditions resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon.

The planting season started with a delayed onset of rainfall resulting in a 12 percent drop in corn area planted.

Rainfall continued to be below average, especially in the western region of the country, with prolonged dry spells.

An extreme dry February that overlapped with crucial vegetative and flowering stages for maize resulted in total crop failure in many regions of Zimbabwe including the northern provinces, which are typically high-yielding agricultural areas.

More than 900,000 hectares of maize out of an estimated 1.8 million hectares of planted area have been destroyed by the drought.

The consequent reduction in grain production and the severe impact on food security forced the Zimbabwean government to declare a state of disaster in April 2024.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country needs about $2 billion in aid to provide life-saving assistance to affected communities

Maize is the main staple food and the single most important crop in Zimbabwe. Maize production in Zimbabwe is dominated by smallholder farmers who have limited access to irrigation technologies. As a result, more than 90 percent of corn production is entirely dependent on rainfall.

In the past, Zimbabwe depended on neighboring countries like South Africa and Zambia for corn imports.

In the marketing year 2023/24, Zimbabwe imported almost 640,000 metric tonnes of maize from South Africa.

However, with South Africa’s corn crop also impacted by the drought, dropping by almost 20 percent, and Zambia set to import at least 1.0 million metric tonnes of corn to meet domestic demand, supply in the southern Africa region will be tight in the marketing year 2024/25.

“The Zimbabwean government announced that it plans to obtain corn, with the support of private millers, from Brazil, Russia, Argentina, and the United States. While Zimbabwe allows genetically engineered corn imports, shipments must be quarantined before being milled into corn meal, the national staple,” the report said.

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