The Famine Early Warning System Network said in a report issued this week that the severe shortages of maize and soaring prices for maize and maize meal in southern Zimbabwe can be laid at the doorstep of the Grain Marketing Board. The GMB exercises a monopoly over the purchase and sale of cereals.
Fewsnet said the GMB “is failing to collect and pay in a timely manner for grain” from farmers. This resulted in shortages in southern areas even as Mashonaland farmers in the north were “frantically trying to sell their maize" to the GMB.
The Fewsnet report said only about 210,000 tonnes of maize had been purchased and collected by the GMB as of mid-August when, in a good harvest year, 900,000 tonnes would have been collected by that date.
Due to the shortages, prices of maize and maize meal soared by as much as 114% in August alone, said Fewsnet, which is based in the United States.
Zimbabwe's southern provinces have been hardest hit. But GMB depot manager Charles Chikwaramadara told state television Tuesday that the agency has allocated more than 10,000 tonnes of maize to Bulawayo, enough to supply it for a month.
The GMB had been struggling to allocate sufficient maize to the more than 70 millers operating in Bulawayo, Matabeleland's capital and Zimbabwe's second city
Looking ahead, Fewsnet said fertilizer and fuel shortages could hit crop production in the oncoming cropping season. However, it noted a plentiful supply of maize seed.
Seed producing firms report stocks of more than 47, 000 tonnes, enough to sow some 1.8 million hectares of land, in theory enough planting to meet Zimbabwe's needs.
Deputy Director Nyika Musiyazviriyo of Christian Care, the country's main organization for the operation of food aid distribution and feeding programs, discussed the impact such grain shortages have had on the population in the stricken regions.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...