The Food Situation In Zimbabwe 2007 (24-03-07)
Press Statement

26 March 2007

The Food Situation In Zimbabwe 2007

I normally give a crop forecast every year sometime in February. This year, I decided that since there was now a new minister of Agriculture, Hon Rugare Gumbo, I would give him time to settle down and see if he will perpetuate the annual deliberate misinformation that became the modus operandi of Hon Made since 2000. Dr Made misled this country annually, with the approval of the President. I say the president approved because his inefficiency is legendary. Many newspapers called for his dismissal over the years but no action taken.

Minister Gumbo at least has told the nation some truth but not the whole truth. He has admitted and declared this year a disaster. This is the first time since 2000 that government has admitted that there will be no food and he did so early enough in the season. I praise him for that.

Maybe I should deal with the current season first before I look into the meat of the problems; not challenges. For those who have not read my previous articles on maize in particular, I would like to mention that the first source of food shortage is the supply of seed. Seed farmers, who the government had said should be spared under the now infamous land reform, had their farms nevertheless taken. New farmers were recruited to produce seed. Because of inexperience, their yields were just around two tonnes per hectare instead of the average five tonnes. A lot of the new farmers have stopped seed production for various reasons including viability, labour etc. I know several farmers who have abandoned seed production.

Shortage of seed will be with us for a long time.

It will be remembered that in June last year, some obscure South African company was given US$45million to supply compound D fertilizer. That amount of money, given to the local manufacturers, would provide sufficient fertilizers for this country for a year. So we have the perennial shortage. Then of course there are fuel and draught power shortages. These essentials were so expensive that many farmers only put to the ground enough for their own consumption.

The sum total of all this is that even without drought, there was still going to be a shortage of food. I estimate that the maize produced this year will be around 700 000t. This is because the only provinces where there is some meaningful maize are parts of Mashonalnd West and Central.

What happened to the 1 800 000t of maize proudly announced in May last year by Dr. Made and repeated even after harvest by GMB? GMB continue to mislead this nation by saying that because their year ends in March, maize continues to be delivered up to end of March each year when they know that for all intents and purposes, deliveries are over by end of October. This is where Minister Gumbo has failed. Zimbabweans deserve to be told the truth at least for once. We know that the silos are empty. It is not your fault Honourable Minister, you inherited empty silos; why not say so and you start with a clean balance sheet, albeit with zero stocks?

The government has disclosed that they are currently importing 400 000t of maize. Last season, the GMB bought 500 000t. We know that the silos are empty. The national requirement is 2 000 000t of maize. The production will be 700 000t. This gives a shortfall of 1 300 000t. There is no foreign currency to import maize of this magnitude. Mr. Gumbo has the audacity to tell the nation that they will not seek assistance from any body as they have the ability to feed the nation.

Where is this ability? The country is completely grounded because there is no fuel. There is no foreign currency to import power. Hwange is unable to operate. Bulawayo has run out of water. Harare residents are drinking untreated water because amongst other problems, there is no foreign currency to import chemicals. I could go on and on.

But what does Mr. Gumbo say? People in many parts of the country are starving right now. Children are going to school without food, yet the government does not want assistance. What is more shameful, people dying of hunger or asking for assistance?

Oh! By the way, there will be combined elections next year, presidential and parliamentary. This obviously requires that the people are properly conditioned starting now. By March next year, the food shortage and starvation will be at its worst. That is when these sham elections will be held. How appropriate.

While the Bible says that we must pray for those who rule over us, it was never the intention to pray for an evil government. Proverbs 29 vs. 2 says “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn”.

I appeal to the Donors who have saved the people from death over the past 7 years to come forward and save the lives of many innocent people from certain death at the hands of this uncaring government.

Renson Gasela
Secretary for Lands and Agriculture

MDC

26th March, 2007