Food shortage fears as govt cancels import permits

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
03 April 2014

The immediate cancellation of food import permits have sparked fears of a looming shortage of fruit and vegetables, with no clarification yet of when imported fresh produce will be allowed back on shelves.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said in a statement this week that all current fruit and vegetable import and export permits, previously issued by the ministry, had been recalled with immediate effect. This followed a Government directive on Monday that there was a need to revise the rules and regulations governing the importation and exportation of agricultural produce.

The move means that all fresh produce brought into the country will not be permitted, until new import permits are issued. It is not yet clear who will now be given the permits and when. But in the short term it means grocery stores and other shops who sell imported goods will soon run short of stock.

The effect of the directive is likely to be far reaching, with Zimbabweans mostly reliant on imported fresh produce because of the destruction of the domestic agricultural sector. The import of fresh fruit and vegetables from South Africa, for example, is said to be worth an estimated $1 million a month.

At the same time, some commercial farming groups in Zimbabwe remain afloat because of international exports of their produce, with large supermarkets chains and others still sourcing Zim fruit and vegetables.

Economic analyst Masimba Kuchera said the directive has likely been motivated by pressure from local producers, who have argued that imports are killing the local markets.

“The idea is good, but the timing is really bad. This may induce a food shortage because the directive is coming with immediate effect. Local farmers are likely not prepared to chip in with the required food tonnage of produce for the markets,” Kuchera told SW Radio Africa.

He added: “So we may have a ripple affect with price increases in the short term, because we will have fewer goods with a lot of demand.”

Kuchera also warned that the impact on the export market will be serious, because Zimbabwe’s economy is still in desperate need of foreign currency.

“From an export perspective this is shooting yourself in the foot, because some of the foreign currency in the market is generated from this sector. So this (the directive) reduces the country’s ability to earn foreign currency which is required at the moment,” Kuchera explained.

He added that corruption, which has been rampant in different Zimbabwean sectors, is a source of concern moving forward, with the import/export industry worth millions of dollars.

“Corruption is something we have to be worried about generally, because it has pervaded every nook and cranny of Zimbabwean transaction. Clearly we have a situation where there is a culture of doing business where kickbacks and bribes are the order of the day,” Kuchera warned.

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2 Responsesto “Food shortage fears as govt cancels import permits”

  1. itayi says:

    The decision to cancel import permits can never be a good one. Restriction on imports of maize over the past 34 years of independence only vindicate this fact and were not able to spur internal production of the staple in any way. instead it was the curtailing of the government resource allocation roll as evidenced by the removal of the monopoly of GMB and removal of price controls that has seen growth in maize production in recent years. Soon Zimbabwe could be moving towards maize self sufficiency again provided the ugly hand of the control freaks is kept in check. As for fruit and vegetables there is no justification whatsoever to impose import restrictions. Everything being equal fruit growing is a knowledge sphere that cannot be learnt over two or three years. In fact it is a culture. And for vegetables what the import restrictions will serve to do is to perpetuate the culture in the country of getting rich quick and therefore a failure to appreciate the low margins associated with this sub sector. We do not need import restrictions of any sort for anything except hard drugs.

    • Chimbwido Warvet says:

      When exporting our economic goods to the entire western world export restrictions are the order of the day by countries who have placed restrictions on Zimbabwean commodities, why on earth should our country import maize from these countries? We do not have that luxury of importing maize from abroad that will flood our market and make it uncompetitive for our emergent commercial farmers. There is no free trade in the correct sense of the word as all countries are now protecting their own farmers by giving subsidies to their farmers while at the same time restricting imports into their countries. Zimbabwe will be that foolish if it is to import maize which it can grow in its own country. Farmers growing this staple food which should be for animal feed and not for human consumption, should be encouraged and assisted to make this crop worthwhile to grow and banning the import of maize is one step forward in government’s effort to create demand that will push up the price of maize in the country. Farmers are not philanthropists or humanitarians who grow maize to feed the nation without reasonable remunerations for their efforts. They are business people who can only grow the staple food if the price is right. There is no world trade without restrictions and for this reason Zimbabwe needs to protect itself against those countries who protect their farmers while dumping their maize in our country. It is this straightforward mate. I hope you will understand my argument and if not I will try to explain again mate. We need to make an effort and be on our own.

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