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Zimbabwe Bans Maize Imports, Expects Big Harvest


HARARE, May 20 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has banned maize imports with immediate effect, the country's agricultural marketing authority said on Thursday, citing an expected big harvest of the staple crop this year.

The southern African nation spent $300 million in scarce foreign currency importing maize last year after successive droughts that left more than half the population in need of food aid.

Farmers in Zimbabwe have started harvesting this year's crop, which is expected to come in at 2.7 million tonnes after higher than normal rainfall. That is three times last year's output and more than annual consumption.

"The Agricultural Marketing Authority will no longer be issuing out import permits for maize and maize meal," the authority's Chief Executive Clever Isaya said in a statement.

Millers would be required to purchase maize from the state grain agency, which has a monopoly on buying and selling maize from farmers.

The national treasury has said agriculture will anchor Zimbabwe's economic recovery this year after sharply contracting in the last two years, while annual inflation is set to ease to double digits by the end of the year from 194.07% in April. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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