ZIMBABWE – A United Kingdom-based research group, BMI Research, has predicted that Zimbabwe will remain a net importer of maize until at least 2020, as the country battles to overcome serious challenges in the agricultural sector.
In a report, the group forecasted that there was no way the country—once the regional breadbasket —would be able to produce enough maize to feed its population in the short to medium term. Maize is the staple food for the country.
“We expect Zimbabwe to remain a net corn (maize) importer over the longer term. Over the next five years, we expect production of the grain to demonstrate moderate growth, although production will remain well below the totals seen in the early 2000s,” BMI Research said in its report released last week.
“We have revised downwards our 2014/15 Zimbabwean corn production forecast from 1,4 million tonnes to 742,500 tonnes. Fertiliser application rates were lower than normal as farmers were largely unable to acquire fertiliser due to delayed subsidies from the Zimbabwean government. Heavy rainfall early in the planting season also led to leaching of nutrients in various areas.
“Meanwhile, hot and dry conditions during the critical pollination phase from last January onwards further reduced yields. Over the coming years, we forecast production to increase marginally due to better yields, but production will remain well below levels seen in previous decades due to financial concerns in the farm sector,” the report said.
The BMI Research forecast covers a five-year period to 2020. It predicated that by the 2018/19 cropping season, Zimbabwe’s maize production would have grown by 43,3 percent on the 2014/15 level to 1,06 million tonnes.
“We project relatively strong growth over the long term, but the country will remain a net importer, as most of this growth is due to base effects,” said the forecast.
Agricultural production has progressively plummeted since the country embarked on a controversial land reform programme in 2000, resulting in Zimbabwe increasingly depending on maize imports to feed its population.
After violently seizing land from productive white farmers and giving it to indigenous blacks, who could hardly put it to any productive use, the country not only lost its coveted regional breadbasket status but became a basket case, living off donations to curtail starvation of its population.
Currently, the country is mobilising resources to import about 700 000 tonnes of maize from regional and international markets to cover for a grain shortfall from the 2014/15 cropping season.
The southern African country is currently in the throes of an El Nino-induced drought, a development that is set to worsen the country’s food crisis as its cash-strapped government is already struggling to meet virtually all its financial commitments.
Irrigation, which supported agriculture before the land reform programme, was vandalised by the new farmers.