Lovemore Lubinda

Zimbabwe farmers who have been finding it hard to get paid for grain sold to the Grain Marketing Board, owing to liquidity constraints, are poised to benefit from the World Food Programme through the sale of their produce to United Nations agencies.

The Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bishow Parajuli said Zimbabwe farmers have the opportunity to sell their produce to UN agencies if their the quality of their farm produce meets the UN criteria.

According to Parajuli, the UN agencies imports 80 percent of its food aid from the region and the remainder 20 percent is sought from the international market. He said this is in line with UN procurement arrangements to reduce costs of transportation and incentivise farmers in the regions.

“As long as the farmers adhere to high standards required, the farmers can benefit,” said Parajuli.

Zimbabwe, which is set for a bumper harvest this year is set to provide the Southern African region with grain after several severe lean seasons in the last few decades due to the impact of last season’s El Nino induced drought.

The UN through its agencies and partners delivered food aid, mainly grains valued US$352 million over four million to Zimbabweans who were in urgent need of food aid.

WFP reported that the Food deficit in the region stood at 10 million before the onset of the rain season.

According to FEWSNET, 342 415 metric tonnes of maize was imported into Zimbabwe, with slightly more than half of the maize sourced from international partners between April and August 2016.

Prisca Mupfumira, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, said government was no longer focusing on importing maize, although international humanitarian organisations had predicted that most families in the country would face hunger before the next harvest season.

“We are prepared and have adequate food stocks, therefore we hope by March 2017, we would have come out of the lean season,” said Mupfumira.

Zimbabwe requires 1.6 million metric tonnes this year and has been relying on the importation of grain from Mexico and Zambia. Mupfumira said Zimbabwe is already self-sufficient.

“We have collected 200 000 metric tonnes from local farmers and we believe the grain will last for the next six months until the next harvest. We hope that by that time the number of people requiring food aid would have declined,” Mupfumira said.

Government however says that deliveries to GMB that were spurred by prompt payments would be sufficient to cushion the nation from impending hunger.

“One of the reasons why we got the grain is the fact that government deliberately paid the farmers on time. We are not focusing on imports at the moment because we have received enough from our local farmers,” said Mupfumira.

World Food Programme representative and country director, Eddie Rowe, said his organisation was aware of the imminent lean season and had designed mechanisms to assist affected communities.

“Through our lean season assistance, WFP deliver targeted unconditional food assistance, nutritional support to address immediate food energy and nutrient needs of households,” Rowe said.