Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mugabe, Scott discuss maize deal
By Lovemore Chikova and Tendai Mugabe in Harare
Sat 11 May 2013, 14:01 CAT

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe met Zambian Vice-President Dr Guy Scott at State House in Harare on Thursday to finalise the government-to-government agreement for Zimbabwe to import 150,000 tonnes of maize from Zambia. Speaking to journalists after the hour-long meeting, Vice-President Scott said Zambia was expected to start delivering the maize soon.

"It should start next week if everything goes according to our best expectations. We discussed issues revolving around maize to ensure none of us lose any people. None of us should have a shortfall of maize this year," he said.

"Basically, we know what we are doing and what we are trying to achieve."

Although Vice-President Scott did not disclose the value of the consignment, The Herald is reliably informed that Zimbabwe had already made a down payment in the region of US$3 million.

Vice-President Scott was accompanied by foreign affairs minister Efron Lungu and agriculture minister Robert Sichinga.

After meeting President Mugabe, Vice-President Scott flew back to Zambia and was seen off at the Harare International Airport by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation development minister Joseph Made.

Made said in an interview after the meeting that the 150,000 tonnes of maize would see the country having enough grain when added to the harvests taking place in areas that were not affected by drought.
He said Zimbabweans should be grateful to Zambia for prioritising the country in the light of a high demand of maize by other countries in the sub-region.

"That matter has now been resolved at the highest level," said Made. "The ministers of agriculture from both countries met and the vice presidents met and ministers of foreign affairs were present. The public is being assured that the maize imports are being done at the highest level."

Made said logistics were already in place to move the grain from Zambia with the cooperation of the northern neighbours.

"The movement of the maize from Zambia requires meticulous work," he said. "We will be concentrating on the logistics so that we get the maize timeously. We will be under pressure to move the grain before the early showers that usually fall in August or September so that the grain is not affected by rains."

Made said the grain would be moved to "strictly priority areas" which did not harvest anything due to drought this season.

The areas include Matabeleland South, Masvingo, southern parts of Manicaland, southern parts of Midlands and some parts of Matabeleland North.

"These are areas where there is nothing at the moment because of the drought," said Made. "People in the northern parts of the country are at least beginning to harvest."

President Mugabe recently castigated finance minister Tendai Biti and MDC-T's stance against the importation of the maize from Zambia.
He said Biti sought to sidestep conditions set out by Zambia that the maize would only be sold to government, not private companies.

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