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Tanzania Begins Shipments of Maize to Drought-hit Zimbabwe

FILE - Men form a chain gang to distribute boxes of food aid, on March 14 2019, in the Mutoko rural area of Zimbabwe to help fight drought-induced hunger.

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania said on Friday it had begun the first shipments of maize to Zimbabwe after an El Nino-induced drought wilted crops and triggered food shortages in the southern African nation.

Tanzania plans to export 700,000 tonnes of the staple food to Zimbabwe.

A United Nations agency has said up to 5 million Zimbabweans, one-third of the population, need food aid.

“The first shipment comprising 1,200 tonnes of maize was exported by rail to Zimbabwe yesterday,” Tanzania’s agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga told journalists after talks with his Zimbabwean counterpart Perrance Shiri in Dar es Salaam.

“We initially planned to export some 17,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe this week, but they have now asked us to increase it to 100,000 tonnes, being part of a total of 700,000 tonnes of maize that we have agreed to sell to them.”

Hasunga said Tanzania was negotiating the modalities of payment for the food exports with the cash-strapped Zimbabwean government.

Tanzania, which has around 3 million tonnes of surplus food after a bumper harvest, is also seeking to export grain to Kenya and other drought-hit East African countries.

Zimbabwe appealed in April for $613 million in aid from local and foreign donors to cover food imports and help with a humanitarian crisis after a severe drought and a cyclone battered the east of the country.

“As you are aware, due to the effects of climate change, Zimbabwe got poor yields of maize last year. As a result, we had to import some grain to compliment whatever we harvested last year,” Shiri said in Dar es Salaam on Friday.

Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; editing by Elias Biryabarema and David Evans

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