Zimbabwe’s Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) is down to below 100,000 tons of the staple maize from the mandatory 500, 000 tons following a drought last year, a cabinet minister said Wednesday.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said the SGR was depleting, state news agency New Ziana reported.
“As things stand, we have less than 100, 000 metric tons of grain in the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) and imports, especially of food are ballooning,” he said while officially opening the ministry’s strategic planning workshop in Bulawayo City.
A strategic grain reserve is a government stockpile of maize grain for the purposes of meeting future domestic or international needs and also helps during food emergencies.
Zimbabwe’s consumes about 1.8 million tons of grain annually, but produced less than 800,000 tons last season due to the impact of drought and Cyclone Idai.
Shiri said the agriculture sector was facing challenges including high input costs, crop diseases, low mechanization and low levels of irrigation.
He highlighted that the country had the potential to irrigate up to 2 million hectares but currently only 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,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s 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 a source of livelihood for 67 percent of the country’s population that resides in rural areas, the minister added.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), half the country’s population, 7.7 million, require food assistance in 2020 due to the impact of drought and Cyclone Idai last year.
To cushion citizens from the effects of drought, the government has commenced a grain importation program to ensure families both in urban and rural areas do not go without food. Enditem