Zimbabwe to Start Commodity Exchange, Ending Monopoly

Zimbabwe opened a commodities exchange to end the state monopoly on grain trading, Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube said.

The Commodities Exchange of Zimbabwe, known as Comez, will be managed by the state, banks and farmers’ unions, Ncube told reporters in Harare today.

The southern African nation effectively closed its Agricultural Commodities Exchange in 2001 when President Robert Mugabe gave the state-owned Grain Marketing Board a monopoly on the trade of corn and wheat.

“We should create a transparent, open and accessible commodities market where both buyers and sellers can participate knowing the prevailing prices,” Ncube said at the opening of the exchange today.

Wilson Nyabonda, chairman of the newly established exchange, said private investors would be invited to take up shares in COMEZ. He did not say when the exchange would begin trading.

Zimbabwe reaped 1.35 million metric tons of corn in its last harvest in April last year, short of the 2.09 million metric tons it needs to feed its people and livestock, the United Nations World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization said Aug. 10. Corn is the country’s staple food. About 1.68 million Zimbabweans depend on emergency food aid, it said. Two years of poor rains reduced harvests in 2008 and 2009.

Zimbabwe produced 10,000 metric tons of winter wheat last year, leaving the country shy of its 410,000 to 450,000-ton requirement, the Commercial Farmers’ Union said last year.

Zimbabwe’s new commodities exchange will initially trade only grains, cereals and oil seeds, Ncube said.

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