Zimbabwe has started importing maize from neighbouring Zambia as the once self-sufficient southern African country emerges from another poor farming season.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation minister Joseph Made Sunday told state media that Zimbabwe had started taking delivery of 150 000 metric tonnes of maize sourced under an agreement with the Zambian government.
He said the grain would be distributed to drought-stricken areas that are already facing serious food shortages.
“We are still in the process of receiving 150,000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia,” Dr Made said.
“Although Finance minister Tendai Biti was insisting on sharing the cost with the private sector, the government could not wait for one person to decide while thousands faced starvation.
“The government’s position and decision was to continue with the importation while Mr Biti’s duty was to look for the money to pay for the grain.”
Two weeks ago, President Robert Mugabe publicly rebuked Mr Biti for insisting that the private sector must shoulder the responsibility of importing maize as the government was broke.
Zimbabwe has been facing large grain deficits since President Mugabe embarked on a violent land reform programme that displaced over 4,000 white large scale farmers.
Some of the farmers resettled in Zambia where they have helped the country to improve its maize harvests.
Farmers given land under the veteran ruler’s land reforms are struggling to be productive due to lack of capital, poor rainfall and lack of skills.