Road transport has been brought in to supplement the railways bringing maize imports into Zimbabwe from Mozambican ports and from stocks in South Africa to ensure adequate supplies in the country.
Zimbabwe ordered enough maize to fill the supply gap that arose after last season’s drought-hit harvest, and ships are docking in Mozambican ports with grain from a huge order supplied by Tanzania, but the railways have not been moving the orders fast enough, hence the addition of road transport, especially on the Beira run.
Last week, 1 770 tonnes of drought relief maize was sent to Harare from Beira as the Government speeds up imports to meet the national requirement, using both major Mozambican ports and buying in South Africa for delivery via Beitbridge.
Maize being imported through Mozambican ports is part of the huge order imported by the Government from Tanzania.
Commenting on the movement of maize being imported from Tanzania to Zimbabwe via Mozambique, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Mozambique, Retired Lieutenant-General Douglas Nyikayaramba said as of last Friday, the last 18 wagons carrying 540 tonnes of maize from the first vessel that had docked in Maputo left for Chicualacuala.
“The current challenge is on the slow turnaround of wagons from Bulawayo to Maputo,” he said. “To date, only 35 wagons were reported to be at Chicualacuala destined for Maputo, but unfortunately they were without their tarpaulins.
“Currently, 59 wagons (1 770 tonnes) have been dispatched to Harare via the Beira route while a balance of 197 wagons (5 910 tonnes), is yet to be railed from Beira.”
But, with road transport now being used as well, Rtd Ltd Gen Nyikayaramba said a total of 98 trucks had since been dispatched to Harare with a balance of 233 trucks to complete the whole consignment still to be loaded and dispatched.
Government is importing an average of 120 tonnes of maize a day from South Africa through Beitbridge.
The use of both road and rail is meant to speed up the movement of maize into Zimbabwe.
National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) public relations manager, Mr Nyasha Maravanyika, said they were concentrating on the ship that arrived in Mozambique last Friday, which was being offloaded.
“The first lot has arrived and we are working on the remainder which is on the way,” he said.
In the last seasons, the maize harvest was 773 635 tonnes of maize against a national requirement of 2,2 million tonnes for both human and livestock consumption.
The imports may have to continue into next year, depending on the size of the harvest from the present season.
Besides the large maize import orders, Zimbabwe needs to import wheat, as it does every year since the irrigated winter harvest is below national consumption. This is a routine commercial operation but adds to the load on the railways.
The “Lowlands Beacon” carrying 10 000 tonnes of Zimbabwe-bound wheat berthed in Maputo on Wednesday last week and offloading started on the same day at about 11pm.
“Loading into wagons will commence as soon as wagons are made available,” said Lt Gen Nyikayaramba (Rtd). “We are also yet to be advised on details of the next vessel carrying drought relief maize by the contracted agent (Manica Freight and Forwarding).”
This season’s harvest is expected to be larger than that of last year but following the drought, Government has embarked on the first round of nationwide crop and livestock assessment to establish disease prevalence, state of pastures and water supply.
The results will provide an early warning to decision makers on the possible outcome of the present cropping season to see what imports may be required before the 2021 harvest.
The assessment identifies areas that need to be addressed in future seasons and addresses gaps in production that may have been identified.
The first crop and livestock assessment also identifies areas of intervention as they relate to saving the season’s crop and make recommendations while ascertaining interventions for the livestock sector.