Africa: Zimbabwe, Zambia Turn to East Africa for maize support

Southern African countries, once a regional food basket and a significant supplier of grains to East Africa, now face a significant deficit, prompting them to turn to Uganda and Kenya for maize.

Zambia, struggling with a deficit exacerbated by the ongoing drought in southern Africa, is seeking to source at least 500,000 tonnes of maize from Uganda.

Similarly, Kenya’s William Ruto has promised maize to Zimbabwe to alleviate the hunger crisis in Harare. During a recent official visit to Zimbabwe, President Ruto pledged to donate $1 million worth of maize to supplement the government’s drought relief.

Zambia is grappling with famine due to a prolonged dry spell that has severely affected maize production in 84 of its 116 districts.

According to Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, there is an agreement to supply up to 500,000 tonnes of maize to Zambia.

“The Ugandan government has received an expression of interest for up to 500,000 tonnes of maize to be exported to Zambia,” an official said.

The move could strain supplies to Kenya and increase the cost of staples given that the country relies on cross-border imports to cover its local deficit.

Zambia’s 2023 Vulnerability Assessment Report projected that over two million people will face food insecurity from October 2023 to March 2024.

Kenya has historically relied on Zambia and Zimbabwe to fill local maize deficits as these countries have been major producers of surplus stocks.

While Zambia is the second largest maize producer in southern Africa after South Africa, the El Niño-related phenomenon has led to drought conditions, prompting Lusaka to declare a national disaster.

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