March 29, 2019 / 9:28 AM / 6 months ago

Zimbabwe has up to seven months' supply of grain, after drought damage: official

FILE PHOTO: A street vendor roasts maize in central Harare, Zimbabwe January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has up to seven months’ supply of the staple maize after drought ravaged crops and it needs to start importing grain now to avert shortages, the secretary for agriculture said on Friday.

Besides the El Niño-induced drought, Zimbabwe was also hit by a cyclone, which devastated the eastern parts of the country, sweeping away what remained of the crop in the area.

Ringson Chitsiko said release of an official crop assessment report for 2019 had been delayed following the cyclone but authorities were aware of the damage caused by the drought.

“We are not blind to what the situation is like out there. We have probably up to seven months supply of grain, including the strategic grain reserve,” Chitsiko told a meeting of the grain industry in the capital Harare.

He declined to say how much of the maize was damaged by the cyclone, which has killed at least 185 people and left thousands homeless near the border with Mozambique.

Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption is 1.2 million tonnes and the country has 500,000 tonnes in strategic reserves.

The southern African nation is also struggling to import wheat due to severe shortages of U.S. dollars. The country has one month’s supply of locally produced wheat, an industry official said.

Last year Zimbabwe harvested 160,000 tonnes of wheat compared with annual consumption of 400,000 tonnes.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Susan Fenton and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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