A Zimbabwean delegation led by Agriculture Minister, Retired Air Marshal, Perrance Shiri reportedly visited Uganda last week to seal a deal to import maize from the East African country.
According to reports from Uganda, the Zimbabwean delegation visited some of the granary stores in the company of officials from the Uganda Grain Council.
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while addressing a meeting with civil society organisations in Bulawayo revealed that his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni offered to sell some of their grain to the drought-stricken Southern African country.
Zimbabwe is experiencing its third consecutive drought, reportedly the worst the country has seen in 40 years, leaving 7.7 million people are food insecure.
Mnangagwa then dispatched Shiri to Uganda to sort out the modalities last week Thursday.
Reports coming in from Uganda state that Minister of State for Animal Industry Lt Col (Rtd) Bright Rwamirama, confirmed the country had potential to supply maize to Zimbabwe and noted this was also fulfilling regional agreements that pushed for inter-trade.
“Yes, we have a lot of maize and this is what COMESA is all about – trading among ourselves, even if we may have not too much (grain) but if we can give half of what they need that is ok,” he said in interviews with Ugandan journalists.
The Agriculture Minister said the agreement between Uganda and Zimbabwe satisfied regional trade protocols.
“Our engagement is proper and part of the framework of COMESA. The (trade) is happening and (the Zimbabwean delegation) has been going around while grain companies were already contacted,” noting that his country had also sold grain to other countries.
“This is not the first time we are selling grain, we sold to Kenya and we always do it.”
However, Rwamirama could not divulge how much maize they would sell to Zimbabwe although he highlighted that this was an opportunity for Ugandan farmers to generate income and expand their business opportunities.
“We do farming as a business, so if our farmers can sell maize to Zimbabwe that is good. If we can sell maize to anywhere it is good and the issue of quantity is not really a serious matter. Whatever quantity we raise or our farmers can generate to be sold off, is good news for Uganda,” said the minister.
Reports indicate Uganda currently has six million tonnes of maize with the ability to consume half of it.
Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Country Representative for Uganda, Antonio Querido, described the decision to sell maize to Zimbabwe as a step in the right direction in order to promote trade in the region.
“We need to make more use of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that exists among our countries. Africa has the largest arable land but still when it comes to export, this accounts to only four percent of total export. So, we need to promote more commercialisation among ourselves as you know this is the food basket of region, the potential is there, the soil is there the water is here so this creates an incentive for farmers to do more,” he said.
Querido noted Uganda has huge potential for grain production despite some challenges.
“In terms of afrotoxin and post-harvest issue but those are manageable things and the export creates an opportunity for us to have income. So, it’s critical for our farmers to work for income security, so the more opportunity – the more market linkage that we have and the better for our farmers. This is good news let’s hope we also reach other markets within our continent and elsewhere,” said the FAO representative.