GRAIN imports have haemorrhaged more than US$525 million from Zimbabwe’s economy in the two years to 2016, grain millers say.
About 70 percent of the amount – US$390 million – was spent last year as Government reacted to the El Nino-induced drought.
Overall, it is estimated Zimbabwe could have spent US$7 billion on grain and grain-related imports over the past 15 years.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chair Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said last week Government and the private sector were working to eliminate wheat and maize imports.
“From January 2015 to March 2017, the country (Government, NGOs and the private sector) imported circa 1,4 million tonnes of maize at an estimated value of circa US$525 million. Of that amount, US$390 million was imported in 2016.
“The impact of this gigantic maize import quantum to the country’s balance of payment is extremely negative. The country was importing the staple grain much more than Syria, which was at war.
“The difference, of course, is that Syria had a full import cover and our Strategic Grain Reserve was severely depleted. Definitely such situation is unsustainable in national food security matrix,” said Mr Musarara.
It is estimated that had grain imports from Zambia, Brazil, the Ukraine and Mexico continued in 2017, nostro account balances could have suffered a US$500 million strain.
Monetary authorities say Zimbabwe will retain more foreign currency if maize output breaches the two million-tonne target against annual demand of about 1,8 million tonnes.
Millers have committed US$312 million to buy 800 000 tonnes of maize at US$390 per tonne.