Zambia makes deal to ease Zimbabwe corn shortage

Depleted stocks, erratic rains presenting challenges for Zimbabwe

Zambia has made a deal to sell 300,000 tons of corn to help ease food shortages in Zimbabwe, reducing Zambia’s food surplus by half, according to the Zambian state Food Reserve Agency.

Zimbabwe needs about 2.2 million tons of corn per year, but there is currently a deficit of 800,000 tons due to depleted stocks and erratic rains. In November 2011, the United Nations said 1.5 million Zimbabweans would need food aid through 2012 and called for $258 million in donor funding. Since 2000, about 4,500 white farmers have been forced to leave their Zimbabwe properties because of a land redistribution program for blacks that Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe said was intended to correct colonial-era imbalances in land ownership. Prime properties were handed over to military and security chiefs and Mugabe party loyalists, and much of the land has been left to lie idle.

The Food Reserve Agency in Zambia said current harvests are expected to leave a surplus of more than 1 million tons of corn that the country no longer has the capacity to store, and that it is tapping regional export markets. Zambian corn sells for about $170 a ton. Imports into southern Africa in the past decade from as far away as Canada and Argentina have gone for more than $300 per ton.