The Zimbabwean government has sharply increased the price it pays farmers for their maize output to Z$31.3 million a metric tonne from Z$2.1 million, dollars – an increase of more than 1,000%. Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said the new price doubled the Z$15 million a tonne farmers had asked to ensure the viability of farming.
Meanwhile, agriculture authorities were reportedly stepping up monitoring of farmers, many of whom prefer to sell maize and other crops to dealers in the parallel market offering superior prices - most recently said to be some Z$35 million a tonne.
Harare's critics say that although the government denies there is a food supply crisis, international donor agencies continue to try to help an estimated 4 million people in need of food aid. Last month Deputy Agriculture Minister Sylvester Nguni testified in parliament that the government has no foreign currency to import maize, and China donated 3,000 tonnes of maize to alleviate Zimbabwe's critical shortage.
Despite the dramatic increase in the price paid to maize producers, experts say that Harare's latest move isn't likely to significantly ease the grain shortage.
Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked independent agronomist Roger Mpande of Harare for his view on the government strategy.
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