Zimbabwe has banned grain imports to protect local farmers after producing enough to meet domestic demand, the deputy minister of agriculture has said, just a year after a devastating drought left more than 4 million people in need of food aid.
The southern African nation’s grain agency has also raised $200 million from the government and private sector to purchase maize from farmers, state-owned media reported.
The treasury last week forecast output of the staple maize at 2.1 million tonnes this year, from 511,000 tonnes in 2016.
Reuters news agency quoted the deputy minister of agriculture, Davis Mharapira, as saying:
It is true we have banned all grain imports because we have produced enough this year and also because we need to protect our local farmers
Mr Mharapira said the state’s Grain Marketing Board would pay $390 per tonne for white maize, almost triple the $143 for the September contract for white maize in South Africa, one of the countries from which Zimbabwe has previously imported maize.
He added that the higher price would encourage farmers to produce more maize while the import ban would make it impossible for dealers to buy the grain abroad and resell it at a higher price locally, Reuters reports.
Zimbabwe has since 2001 been importing maize to meet domestic demand of 1.8 million tonnes. The crisis has been blamed in part on the seizure of white-owned farms, hitting commercial agriculture production.