By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru, February 08, 2016 – Tough times beckon for the Midlands as most of its Grain Marketing Board (GMB) silos ran empty last week sending the provincial leadership into panic.
GMB depots in Mberengwa, Zvishavane and Shurugwi went empty with grain buyers turning to shrewd maize dealers who are charging up to $30 per 50 kg bag of maize.
Concerns were raised for places such as Mberengwa which has been experiencing recurrent hunger in years.
Midlands Minister of State, Jason Machaya confirmed that GMB stocks ran out.
“The food situation is dire in the province as I speak. Most GMB silos have since run out of grain and we are working hard to restore supplies,” he said.
Machaya said government was still in the process of importing maize and could however not ascertain exact dates when the grain supplies would be restored.
“I cannot give dates as to when the grain would be available, but we understand the situation that out people are going through and soon the situation will normalise,” said Machaya.
Hunger has struck areas like Gokwe where villagers are surviving from eating Baobab (Mawuyu) which they use to make porridge as grain is scarce in the area.
Gokwe South is in dire need of urgent food aid due to last season’s crop failure, while this year is not promising good fortunes as El Nino persists.
Chief Chireya of Gokwe South told Radio VOP that government should restore the grain loan scheme in his area as villagers are already experiencing hunger.
“The grain loan scheme used to help us access grain before we harvest and this is the kind of arrangement we need to save the situation,” said Chief Chireya.
The grain loan scheme was suspended some two years ago owing to low grain reserves.
“Our local GMB has run out of grain and we are now at the mercy of grain dealers who sell expensive maize meal. Some villagers are trading their cattle for grain and that is not fair,” he added.
Cattle dealers have invaded areas like Gokwe, Lalapanzi and Chirumhanzu trading a 90 kgs of grain for a beast, something which is felt strongly as tantamount to taking advantage of desperate villagers.
Villagers have seen it fit to practise barter trading since the districts have run out of pastures with 1 000 cattle having died in the province in just a few months.
Zimbabwe is in the process of importing 2 million tonnes of grain in the 2016/17 season from South America via Mozambique’s port Beira.
Tafadzwa Musarara Grain Millers Association chairperson assures Zimbabwe that despite of El Nino, sufficient grain will be imported to avert hunger.
“We can commit to our consumers that mealie meal will be available despite the drought. We are the first Southern African country to secure the port of Beira for the importation of grain,” Musarara said.
“We will also make sure that the imported grain is affordable.”