Evicted Farmers Supplying Bulk Of Imported Maize

Recipients of the government’s grain loan scheme in Matabeleland were last week shocked to discover that the names on the stickers on the grain bags were of former white farmers.

The Zimbabwe government has imported 300,000 tonnes of maize from Zambia to feed millions of its citizens who are facing starvation.

Following the chaotic land seizures, most white commercial farmers, who were dispossessed of their farms fled to Zambia where they bought new farms. Since then Zimbabwe, which used to be southern Africa’s bread basket, has been buying most of its maize grain staple from Zambia, to augment available stocks.

“Last week I received two bags of maize grain under the grain loan scheme from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot in Insiza. One of the bags had a green sticker inside written, ‘supplied by Michel Handris’, a former Karoi commercial farmer. The sticker had also the contact details of Handris, who is now farming in the southern parts ofZambia,” said Edmore Ndlovu.

Villagers who spoke to Radio VOP, in Umguza, also confirmed receiving maize bags with stickers bearing names of former white commercial farmers.

 “We are now required to destroy all the Zambian bags and repackage the grain in our local bags,” said a GMB source.

He said that the fact that some former Zimbabwean farmers were supplying maize had angered some senior Zanu (PF) officers and the minister of Agriculture.

Zimbabwe faces a one million tonne maize deficit due to drought, with nearly half of the national crop coming up for harvest this month failing due to poor rains.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made recently said nearly 45 percent of the maize crop that was planted last farming season was a completewrite-off.

The country needs at least 2, 2 million tonnes of maize to feed itself annually but Made said Harare currently has only 400,000 tonnes of maize stocks, which must be complemented by imports to prevent hunger.

Donor organisations say they are re-assessing their assistance to Zimbabwe to see how they can cope with the shortfall in both crop and funding. Last year the United Nations said it would raise nearly $200 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe with half going to food security for more than 1.4 million people. But a funding shortfall affected the donor groups’ efforts to assist.