Facing catastrophic hunger, Zimbabwe will import corn from Mexico, Ukraine and neighbouring South Africa to help feed as many as eight million of its citizens — over half the population — after drought withered crops last year and threatens to do the same in 2020.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the imports Friday, while cleaning litter in the streets of Kuwadzana, an impoverished township on Harare’s western city limits.
“With the difficulty of things now, the industry ministry is looking at adding cooking oil, salt, bread and soap to the list of subsidised items for consumers,” Mnangagwa said. The government would withdraw trading licenses from retailers over-charging for cornmeal, the country’s staple food, he said.
Zimbabwe consumes about 2.2 million metric tons of corn a year for humans and farm animals.
The World Food Programme said December 31 that it plans to feed at least four million of Zimbabwe’s estimated eight million hungry this year, but said the international community needs to step up with cash donations because it hasn’t raised the money yet. Typically, aid agencies in Zimbabwe provide cash to consumers so they can buy food, because it’s logistically easier and more cost-effective.
The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Network System, known as Fewsnet, said in December the drought that scorched Zimbabwe’s crops last year looks set to continue into 2020. If that happens, it’ll leave poor Zimbabweans scratching for food until at least March 2021 — and with about 90% of adults outside formal work, most people face poverty.
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.