(Updates with deputy minister as source, details)
HARARE, June 13 Zimbabwe has banned grain
imports to protect local farmers after producing enough to meet
domestic demand, a government minister said on Tuesday, just a
year after a devastating drought left more than 4 million people
in need of food aid.
The southern African nation's grain agency has also raised
$200 million from the government and private sector to purchase
maize from farmers, the Herald newspaper said.
The national treasury last week forecast output of the
staple maize at 2.1 million tonnes this year, from 511,000
tonnes in 2016.
"It is true we have banned all grain imports because we have
produced enough this year and also because we need to protect
our local farmers," Davis Mharapira, the deputy minister of
Mharapira said the Grain Marketing Board would pay $390 per
tonne for white maize, almost triple the $143 for the September
contract for white maize in South Africa, one of the
countries from which Zimbabwe has previously imported maize.
The deputy minister said the higher price would encourage
farmers to produce more maize while the import ban would make it
impossible for dealers to buy the grain abroad and resell it at
a higher price locally.
Zimbabwe has since 2001 been importing maize to meet
domestic demand of 1.8 million tonnes, blamed in part on
seizures of white-owned farms by the government of President
Robert Mugabe that hit commercial agriculture production.
Mharapira said the national strategic grain reserve was
holding 180,000 tonnes of maize, far below its targeted
requirements of between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Stoddard and