Bulawayo (New Ziana) –Stocks in the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) are down to below 100 000 tons from the mandatory 500 000 tons as effects of recurrent droughts begin to show, a Cabinet Minister has said.
A strategic grain reserve is a government stockpile of grain for the purpose of meeting future domestic or international needs and also helps during food emergencies.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri (Rtd) said the SGR was depleting.
“As things stand at the current moment, we have less than 100 000 metric tons of grain in the Strategic Grain Reserve and imports, especially of food are ballooning,” he said while officially opening his Ministry’s strategic planning workshop on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe’s consumes about 1.8 million tons of grain annually.
Shiri said the agriculture sector was facing challenges including high input costs, crop diseases, low mechanisation and low levels of irrigation, highlighting that the country had potential to irrigate up to 2 million hectares but currently 170 000 hectares were under functional irrigation.
In light of that, he said, the government was now targeting to develop 200 hectares of irrigation schemes per district per year.
“Ladies and gentlemen, climate change cuts across all sectors including agriculture. As a Ministry, we need to build the capacity of our farmers to be resilient to climate change shocks and stresses such as drought, floods, crop and livestock diseases, among others.”
“Development of other new irrigation schemes and rehabilitation of non-functional irrigation schemes will mitigate against incidences of drought. I expect intensification of this work in the next five years,” he said.
“As you are all aware the (agriculture) sector has potential to contribute between 16 to 20 percent of the (country’s) Gross Domestic Product, 40 percent of exports and feed the country while providing the source of livelihood for 67 percent of the country’s populace that resides in rural areas,” Shiri added.
Last week, the World Food Programme (WFP) said a record 45 million people in the Southern African Development Community region were food insecure following recurrent droughts and flooding, occurrences which experts say are a result of climate change.
In Zimbabwe alone, the WFP said an estimated 7.7 million people were food insecure as the two weather extremes severely affected last year’s crops while this year’s rainfall patterns also point to another failed harvest.
To cushion citizens from the effects of the drought, the government has commenced a grain importation programme to ensure that families do not go without.
Currently, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a grain task-force headed by deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Justin Mupamhanga is in Maputo, Mozambique to sort out logistics for more grain imports.
The government food relief programme is also being rolled out in urban households for the first time in many years.