HARARE, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has increased the maize producer price fivefold to $389 a tonne in a bid to encourage farmers to deliver the crop to state grain silos, which have been severely depleted after a drought last year, a cabinet minister said on Wednesday.
Last year, Zimbabwe banned farmers from selling maize to anyone other than the state Grain Market Board in a bid to keep prices of the staple crop down after a drought cut output by half.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said farmers, who are expected to start harvesting this year’s crop at the end of next month, would receive 6,958 Zimbabwe dollars (US$389) a tonne, up from 1,400 Zimbabwe dollars set last June.
“This is to encourage deliveries to the GMB and for the replenishment of the strategic grain reserve,” Mutsvangwa told reporters at a post-cabinet media conference.
Annual inflation, which economists estimate reached 525% in December, has eroded incomes as Zimbabwe grapples with its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by shortages of foreign currency, fuel, medicines and food.
The agriculture minister said last month the southern African nation only had 100,000 tonnes of grain in its strategic reserves, enough to last just over a month, forcing the government to ramp up imports of maize.
The World Food Programme requires an extra $200 million to feed 4.1 million Zimbabweans between January and April, it has said. Patchy rains have raised fears that more people will face hunger this year. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)