ZIMBABWE is bracing for a year of hunger, following disclosures by the government that the Grain Marketing Board, as of 10 December 2023, was left with maize stocks lasting just 10 months at a time when an El Niño-induced drought is threatening mayhem.
On the other hand, Zimbabweans will bear the brunt of biting taxes that come into effect in January as announced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in his 2024 National Budget statement.
The new taxes will add to the hardships already being experienced by the general population due to the worsening economic situation prevailing in the country.
According to Information minister Jenfan Muswere during the last 2023 cabinet meeting, the GMB is facing a supply deficit of grain, with the available stocks of maize, traditional grain and wheat only covering the demand of consumption for 10.2 months and 11.5 months respectively.
Muswere said the GMB as at 10 December, had in stock a total of 235 095 metric tonnes of grain, comprising 188 353 metric tonnes of maize and 46 742 metric tonnes of traditional small grains, while the current wheat stock is at 242 508 metric tonnes.
“At the prevailing monthly consumption rate of 23 000 metric tonnes per month, the available grain will last 10, 2 months. Regarding wheat, the country’s current stock stands at 242 508 metric tonnes, which are sufficient to provide 11.5 months cover at a monthly drawdown rate of 21 000 metric tonnes,” he said.
While Muswere said the grain stocks could last 10 months, sources say he misrepresented the truth because in actual fact, monthly grain requirement is about 41 000 tonnes for both human and industrial use, Zimbabwe is left with enough to cover about six months, which is not enough to take the nation to the next harvest, while the El Niño-induced drought will make the situation even more dire.
The El Niño phenomenon, a manifestation of the global climate crisis, is expected to significantly impact negatively on the 2023/2024 harvest.
Already some crops planted in November are now a right off as rains came late after a long period of high temperatures that saw sweltering heat spreading across the country, resulting in moisture stress for plants.
Although Muswere revealed that the government instituted mitigating measures such as availing maize seed that is of early to ultra-early maturity variety, it remains to be seen if the measures may have a positive impact on import percentage on grain and wheat which has stood at 313 719 metric tonnes for both maize, wheat and wheat flour being imported by the private sector between 1 April and 3 December 2023.
Ironically, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has repeatedly claimed that Zimbabwe has attained food security. But in reality, the country is just one drought away from starvation.
“El Niño is exposing government propaganda. Zimbabwe has not yet attained sustainable food security. Cabinet recently revealed that Zimbabwe has 10 months’ supply of grain left.
So what happened to the so-called bumper harvest which Mnangagwa and his ministers have been gloating about?” asked an expert while speaking to The NewsHawks.
“The lived reality of most citizens is that people are failing to afford two or three square meals per day. Zimbabwe had the highest food-price inflation in the world in 2023, meaning food is unaffordable.”
According to World Bank figures for August and November 2023, Zimbabwe continues to lead the 10 countries with the highest food price inflation globally.
According to its latest report on food price inflation, there was an increase in almost all low-income and middle-income countries, with Zimbabwe clinching first position.
Domestic food price inflation measured as year-on-year change in the food component of a country’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) remains high in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s figures on year-on-year nominal food inflation and real food inflation were 321% and 52% respectively.
“Information from the latest month between August and November 2022 for which food price inflation data are available shows high inflation in almost all low- and middle-income countries.
“88.2 percent of low-income countries, 90.7 percent of lower-middle-income countries, and 93 percent of upper-middle-income countries have seen inflation levels above 5 percent, with many experiencing double-digit inflation,” reads the report.
According to the report, the share of high-income countries with high inflation is also high, with about 81.8 percent experiencing high food price inflation. The worst countries are in Africa, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.
“In real terms, food price inflation exceeded overall inflation in 90 percent of the 161 countries,” read the report.