A severe drought currently hitting Zimbabwe and most parts of the Southern region is likely to slow down any economic activity in the country impacting heavily on agriculture, economist and politician, Dr Tapiwa Mashakada has said.
The current dry spells have even worsened the situation as summer crops are beginning to show moisture fatigue and have plunged the government into spending more on maize imports.
Mashakada believes the gross domestic product forecast at 3% by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube during his 2020 budget presentation is no longer viable due to the severity of the drought.
“The economy is now expected to decline by -8% against the backdrop of another drought which will affect Agriculture, the main sector of the economy. Tobacco output is expected to decline below the 2019 volumes due to debt and payment in RTGS,” he said.
This comes on the back of increased maize imports by the government to mitigate hunger.
Latest monthly report from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) indicates that Treasury spent US$1,5 million on maize imports in August, but the figure shot up to US$4 million in September, with the Government saying higher imports were in the pipeline to cope with not only last season’s drought but what is likely to be an inadequate harvest this season.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warned that Zimbabwe was facing its worst hunger crisis in a decade, with more than half the population being food insecure.
The organisation’s Deputy Country Director, Niels Balzer said they will double their humanitarian aid in January alone.
“The WFP is planning to increase the number of people it is helping to 4,1 million by January, over double the number it currently helps, by providing life-saving rations of cereal, pulses and vegetable oil, in addition to a protective nutrition ration for children under five years,” he said.
On the other hand, the government assured the nation that it will allocate more money towards the acquisition of maize.
“Our country was hit by drought last year and maize harvest dropped by almost 50 per cent and now the Government will make sure that food is available, especially in difficult months such as January to April.
“Government will keep on increasing money for maize imports since the sky is not promising enough rains,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said recently.
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Services Department says there is likely to be more rains of between 20 and 30 millimetres in 24 hours starting this Friday.
Matabeleland North, northern areas of the Midlands, all Mashonaland provinces, Harare metropolitan province and northern areas of Manicaland province are all expected to receive rains which will end the dry spell which started before the festive holidays.