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Harare Launches Investigation into Maize Crisis

The Zimbabwean government said it is launching an investigation into acute shortages of maize meal nationwide. Industry and Trade Minister Obert Mpofu said his staff will look closely at milling companies to find out why the shortages have developed.

Grain Marketing Board Chief Executive Samuel Muvhuti told the Chronicle newspaper, a state-controlled publication, that the GMB has blacklisted agricultural operators who bought maize from the state grain monopoly at the subsidized rate of $Z600 dollars a metric tonne, then sold it back to the GMB at the producer price of $Z31,000.

Elsewhere, international donors are investigating reports some government ministers and top officials of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party have exported maize to neighboring countries despite domestic shortages, sources said.

The government has imported maize from South Africa for the equivalent of US$200 a metric tonne, but sells it through the GMB for $Z600, less than US$3. Most of it ends up being sold for a huge profit across borders, according to market sources.

Many Zimbabwean maize producers prefer to sell their grain to parallel market dealers offering prices much higher than the GMB's official price - and provide transport.

Independent economist James Jowa says the state must control maize as a strategic commodity, but recommended that the price structure be constantly reviewed.

For another perspective, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe also interviewed Iraj Abedian, CEO of Pan African advisory services in Johannesburg, South AFrica, who said the GMB monopoly is exacerbating the maize crisis.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...