ZIMBABWE – The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has released US$20 million for importation of wheat from Canada and Germany to supplement the insufficient national wheat stocks.

This was as requested by millers following poor harvest in the drought-hit southern African country.

The amount will be used to pay for 200,000 tonnes of wheat procured by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) from Germany and Canada last month which will come in batches until the country harvests winter wheat crop this summer, according to the Herald.

GMAZ had earlier requested US$11 million from RBZ to pay for the first batch of wheat since the suppliers had demanded a full payment of the 30 000 tonnes of wheat from Canada.

“Our logistics team is now working on how to transport the 30 000 tonnes of wheat which docks this week from Beira into the country whose arrival in Harare, we are expecting starting next week and we owe this to the central bank for their swift response,” GMAZ’s media and public relations manager Garikai Chaunza said.

“This is the first batch of the wheat deal which we concluded last month in Canada and we are going to receive the same quantum every month until the winter wheat harvesting season.

“Our national wheat stocks were fast depleting and we are left with grain that would take the nation up to June 26.”

Forex shortages impacting procurement

As a result of shortages in hard currency, millers said that they owe various suppliers foreign debts who in turn cut the supplies forcing them to opt for low protein wheat from Russia, Poland and Turkey.

Wheat suppliers from Canada had threatened to divert the shipment if GMAZ failed to pay once it lands at the Beira port in Mozambique this week.

As a result of improved relations with Western countries, Zimbabwe which relied on Russia for wheat and Thailand for rice, is now buying from Europe, America and Canada, said the millers.

Millers are however, still facing challenges in accessing the foreign currency they require to pay for wheat imports, with backlogs dating back to December 2016.

According to them, wheat requirements had risen from 350, 000 tonnes in 2010 to 450,000 tonnes while rice requirements have gone up to 250,000 tonnes in 2017 as a result of changing dietary requirements.

The government of Zimbabwe targets to reduce import bill by about US$100 million and produce 250,000 tonnes of wheat this year from 200,000 tons it produced last year.

Under the Command Agriculture programme, the government planted around 67 000 hectares of wheat this year.