Zimbabwe Budgets at Least $62 Million for Corn Purchases in 2017

  • Country may raise a further $80 million to buy the grain
  • Farmers increased corn planting by 55%, government says

Zimbabwe has set aside $62 million to buy corn from farmers after plantings of the grain increased 55 percent from a year earlier, and will seek funds for additional purchases, according to Agriculture Minister Joseph Made.

The state-run Agricultural Marketing Authority has been told to raise $80 million to fund further purchases of Zimbabwe’s staple food, Made told a parliamentary committee on Friday. He didn’t provide details of how the money would be raised.

Zimbabwe, which is usually a net importer of corn, produced 1.3 million metric tons of the grain last year, compared with its 2.2 million-ton annual requirements, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. The government has sought to increase output after the country suffered food shortages last year after the worst drought in at least two decades.

State agencies including the AMA and the Grain Marketing Board have instructions to pay farmers $390 a ton for corn, as the government seeks to encourage increased output, Made said. At $390 per ton, the $62 million would buy 158,974 tons.

Zimbabwe farmers increased corn plantings to 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) this season, including 150,000 hectares planted under a government program overseen by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The plan sought to improve yields by increasing access to fertilizers and pesticides. More than half of the corn grown through the program is showing “very good” yield prospects, Made said.

About 10 percent of the southern African nation’s corn crop has been threatened by an infestation of fall armyworm, a pest endemic to the Americas that has been reported in other countries in the region including Zambia and South Africa.

The country may harvest 3 million tons of corn this year, significantly exceeding its target, Mnangagwa said on Sunday. That would be the largest harvest in at least 50 years, topping a 1980 record crop of 2.7 million tons, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization data.

The 3 million-ton estimate is “enthusiastic but unlikely,” Ben Gilpin, an official at the Commercial Farmers Union, said by phone on Monday. Unusually heavy rains are hampering harvesting of early-planted corn and armyworms remain a threat, he said. “It’s a good crop, certainly, but 3 million tons seems very ambitious.”

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.