In a bid to alleviate drought and improve the availability of basic foodstuffs, the government this week, with immediate effect, suspended customs duty and scrapped import permits and licences for grain, maize meal and wheat flour.
The measures are contained in Statutory Instrument 247 of 2019 – Customs and Excise (suspension/amendment) Regulations – which has since been gazetted to give that legal effect.
This comes at a time when Zimbabwe is facing a serious drought following the poor previous cropping season.
The new changes mean individuals and corporates can now import grain products duty-free without the need for a permit as part of measures.
According to the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development, Industry and Commerce and Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement the suspension of import conditions will last until May 2020.
Raw maize and maize meal, which used to attract 25 percent duty, will now be imported duty-free.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) spokesperson, Garikai Chaunza, has welcomed the development, which he said would easily avail basic foodstuffs to consumers.
In August the government was forced to set aside ZWL$1, 67 billion towards drought mitigation in the midterm fiscal policy review.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) about 8, 5 million Zimbabweans are at risk of food insecurity.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) 2019 report, on the other hand, estimates that 5,5 million of the food insecure people are in rural areas.
Unveiling his ZWL$58.6 billion 2020 budget, a fortnight ago, Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, said over the years, Zimbabwe had been experiencing severe droughts at a rate of 1 in 10 years and mild droughts of 1 in 3 years, affecting the country’s economic growth.
“Government is, therefore creating a fiscal buffer to the tune of ZWL$165 million to cater for drought shocks, as well as strengthening the early warning systems,” said Ncube.