Zimbabwe is facing an increased grain deficit of approximately 1.17m tonnes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite a small increase in production, leaving the majority of the population facing food shortages-according to the official crop as seen and reported by local media.
According to media reports, the ministry of lands and agriculture said grain output would increase to 1,060,143 tonnes from 944,000 tonnes harvested last year. That is still below the national requirement of 2.23m tonnes.
Last year, Zimbabwe had a grain shortfall of 700,000 tonnes, with stocks carried over from the 2018 season helping narrow the gap. The World Food Program is leading humanitarian efforts to feed millions of Zimbabweans and has warned of deepening climate- and recession-induced food shortages.
The crop report said grain stocks in more than half of Zimbabwe’s 60 rural districts would not last six months.
Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak is seen inflicting more damage on Zimbabwe’s economy, which is already grappling with the effects of a devastating drought in 2019 and erratic rains this year as well as a fiscal crisis.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s wheat crop was forecast to decline by two-thirds due to the worst drought in nearly 40 years and a widespread power shortage that has severely limited farmers’ ability to irrigate.
Graeme Murdoch, vice-chairman of the National Wheat Contract Farming Committee, said that they would produce around 60,000 tonnes as a result of power cuts. This is a 100,000 decline from 2018 which saw the country report harvests of 160,000 tonnes of wheat.
According to Murdoch, Zimbabwe relies on hydropower from the Kariba plant for about half of its needs, but output has dropped to 190 megawatts compared with its 1,0150 megatwatt capacity as the dam’s water level has dwindled. With daily power cuts of up to 18 hours, he said the amount of irrigable land for wheat is now just 28,000 hectares compared to the targeted amount of 75,000 hectares.
The Zimbabwe Ministry of Agriculture estimated that the country needs to import 375,000 tonnes of wheat to meet national demand of 450,000 tonnes.