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Persistent dryness that I have been writing about is not just a domestic challenge, across our borders, in Zimbabwe, farmers seem to be experiencing a similar challenge. As a result, some global observers such as the International Grains Council already project a notable decline of 45% year-on-year in Zimbabwe’s maize production in 2018/19 marketing year to 1.2 million tonnes.

This means Zimbabwe could remain a net importer of maize in the 2019/20 marketing year (corresponds with the 2018/19 production year). Zimbabwe’s maize carry over stock from the 2018/19 marketing year will not be sufficient to boost its maize supplies.

Remember, Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption varies between 1.8 million and 2.0 million tonnes. Therefore, they will have to import roughly 800 000 tonnes to fill the domestic demand.

Now, in such an event, where will Zimbabwe get maize supplies?

The most likely supplies would be Zambia and South Africa, but they too might have a poor harvest. Having said that, South Africa could still export maize to any (price) attractive destination despite the expectations of a poor harvest. But Zimbabwe also has foreign currency liquidity problems which could make matters worse.

Anyway, we will get a clear sense of the potential maize harvest and import needs as the season continues. Suffice to say that 2019 promises to be a challenging year for Zimbabwe in terms of agriculture and food price inflation perspective.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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