THE Food and Agricultural Or­ganisation (FAO) says Zimba­bwe will this year be forced to import more grains to offset effects of adverse weather conditions.

The prevailing El-Nino induced weather phenomena is expected to cause a decline in economic produc­tivity in Zimbabwe due to reduced ag­ricultural production.

“Although official production fore­casts are not yet available, the maize output is foreseen to decline for a second consecutive year to a near-av­erage outturn of one million tonnes,” the FAO said in a recent report on the Southern African Development Com­munity.

This comes as farmers’ unions have already indicated that me expect­ed maize yield is estimated at 700 000 to 800 000 tonnes, which is lower than the previous season’s yield and a far cry from the 2,2 million tonnes nation­al annual requirements.

With the Grain Marketing Board reportedly holding only 996 000 tonnes of maize in stock, and an intake of 500 000 tonnes is projected during the forthcoming marketing season, economic experts say the country needs to import over 500 000 tonnes of maize to cover the supply gap.

Early this month, government and United Nations authorities launched an urgent appeal for US$234 million for more than five million people in urgent need of food due to a drought and a weak economy.

The funds are to “provide urgent food, health, water, sanitation, hygiene and protection support for 2^2 million people of the 5,3 million people in need over the next six months”, the United Nations said in a statement, which amounts to about a third of the country’s population.

“In areas across the country, there are acute shortages of essential med­icines, and rising food insecurity has heightened the risk of gender-based violence, particularly for women and girls,” it said.

Zimbabwe has been heavily depen­dent on maize imports over the years, importing maize from South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Mexico.

In 2017, despite the bumper harvest off2,l million tonnes, at least 300 000 tonnes of maize was imported valued $114 million.

However, the availability of grain on the regional market is limited as Zambia and Malawi have place a ban on exports and there are limited car­ry-over stocks in South Africa and a reduced maize yield for 2018/2019 is forecast.