So I am sure you might have been aware that the importation of grain has always been illegal in Zimbabwe. Well, not anymore, as the government has done away with the prohibition of grain importation. Anyone, from individuals to businesses, can now import grain – never mind the quantity (it can be any quantity). This is meant to offer assistance to the government who seem to be struggling to ensure the adequate availability of grain locally. So if you have the money to import grain, now you can do so without any problems since it is now legal.

Minister Perrance Shiri’s Remarks

This development was announced by the minister just after a Cabinet meeting held on Monday. The minister said that anyone can now import grain either for domestic use or to sell. He pointed out that what the importer chooses to do is up to their discretion. However, you will have to secure an import license from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement. He also said that those interested can approach the Agricultural Marketing Authority – AMA to get their import licenses. He emphasized that there is no limit as to the quantity of grain one can import into the country. In fact, Minister Shiri actually said that those who will do that will be augmenting the government’s efforts to make grain adequately available locally. He also said that getting licenses will be hassle-free.

What Led To The Minister’s Remarks?

Sometime last week, the minister was asked a question during a Senate session. The question was regarding what the government was doing to ensure small livestock industries remain functional. This was in pursuance of an argument whereby most farmers had expressed concern on how difficult it is to source grain from GMB for the purposes of stock feeds. That is when the minister addressed the question by saying that accessibility of grain by these farmers has been hampered by the issue of allocations. He said that the government has prioritized grain allocation for human consumption as opposed to livestock consumption. This is obviously stemming from the inadequate supply of the locally produced grain. Following that is when he outlined the new development where anyone can now import grain provided they get an import license. He said as for grain for livestock feeds people could still approach the GMB to get such. The condition being they will only be able to access grain that is spoiled or no longer suitable for human consumption.

The Prevailing Drought Situation

Last year the country did not get favourable rainfall and that induced a drought. This means that there is a discrepancy in the amount of grain available and the amount of grain needed. The estimated amount of grain required to see the country through till the next harvest is close to a million tonnes. Typically, Zimbabwe requires close to 2 million tonnes to have sufficient grain. This whole scenario is the reason why the government has opened the avenue for those with funds to import grain if they can. This is because the amount of grain required to see the nation up to the next harvest will come from grain imports.

It is quite unfortunate that this measure is now coming this late. Had this always been the case we would not have been rocked by grain shortages. It is apparent that the nation is being affected by climate change which means we have to move away from heavy reliance on natural rains. As a nation, we need to rethink our approaches in agriculture and agricultural policies in general. In the same vein, we need to also take livestock production very seriously. Most people are now venturing into this line of business and they really need to be given the necessary support. Since livestock production requires feeds it means the adequate supply of grain must be guaranteed. Even our farming methods need to be reviewed in light of how our climate and weather is changing. For instance, this is the beginning of October and as I write this article the weather is extremely cold – something unlike of this time of the year. So there is a need to invest in research into new types of crop varieties and new farming methods (e.g. vertical farming).