ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe has commenced importation of 17,000 tonnes of maize from Tanzania to alleviate food shortages brought about by the El-Nino-induced drought compounded by Cyclone Idai which hit Zimbabwe in March, destroying many crops ravaging the country.

The maize importation agreement follows the commitment made by Tanzania’s head of state, President John Magufuli to his Zimbabwean counterpart, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, during his recent official visit in Harare.

According to President Magufuli, Tanzania has a total of 3.3 million tonnes in surplus of the commodity following the recent bumper harvest of the 2018/2019season.

Tanzania harvested 16.8 million tonnes of maize compared to the country’s annual demand of about 13.5 million tonnes.

In April the Ministry of Agriculture in Zimbabwe revealed that the country was only left with between 500 000 to 700 000 tonnes of maize, close to seven months’ supply of the staple crop forcing them to begin importing grain.

The shipment exercise of the maize is expected to be undertaken and completed within three months ensuring all the 17,000t is hauled collectively and expeditiously starting 9th September 2019.

To facilitate the consignment Tazara (Tanzania-Zambia Railways), the Zimbabwe and Zambia railway companies have been contracted to undertake the haulage.

Under the agreement, Tazara will load the commodity from Makambako and Vwavwa in Tanzania and relay to Zambia Railways at New Kapiri Mposhi, which would hand over the grain to the Zimbabwe railway authority in Livingstone for onward delivery to various points of storage in the country, reports southerntimesafrica.

 In a press-release statement, Conrad Simuchile, Tazara spokesperson stated, “As Tazara and speaking for the other two sister railways, we are delighted to take up this challenge and ensure the delivery is done without delay.”

Zimbabwe is among several Southern African nations hit by extreme weather in the 2018-19 growing season. According to the United Nations, Zimbabwe’s food situation has degenerated into an emergency with citizens in dire need of food.

Estimates by UN aid agencies and the government show that the country needs a staggering US$218 million to stave off hunger for about 5.5 million people between now and April 2020, when the next harvest is expected, based on assumption of good rainfall next season.