Economist Eddie Cross in a flowery article has said the time to panic a little is now. Writing for The Zimbabwean Eddie narrates the horrors that engulfed the country in 1992. He said he was staying in the Lowveld by that time.
We had a business there and my son was down there living and working. It got so hot that we closed the office at 10 and came back to work when it cooled off a bit. Birds were dying in the trees and falling to the ground. The Ministry of Education closed the schools.
Eddie then talks about the economy of the country around that time and the operations of the feeding store of the nation the GMB.
The GMB is not what it was in those days – a well-run organisation with a clean audit record and a reputation for managing stocks that was unparalleled in Africa.
We have just had a disaster of a season – the Official estimate of what maize will be delivered is 350 000 tonnes – 20 per cent of demand. The Official figure for maize in stock is 430 000 tonnes. Not too bad you say. But a snap audit by the Army has revealed that actual stocks are not even half of this quantity and then much of it (most?) is unfit for human consumption.
Eddie then bemoans what was happening a few years ago where the government through GMB was buying a tonne of maize for $390 and then resale it for $240 and labels it corruption. He says the situation is a mess because we could be down to 6 weeks supply of staple food and 28000 tonnes are needed for now. He said the problem is that we have no financial reserves, the GMB has a lousy reputation for payments and is no longer trusted by grain traders.
Lastly, Eddie agrees swift action is needed and if the government doesn’t do anything things will deteriorate.
Do we have to panic, sure, if we do nothing? This situation calls for swift and decisive action. We first need to understand the extent of our problem – audit the stocks immediately and make the results known to decision makers. But even while we wait for this we need to get maize moving. My solution would be to talk to South Africa and have them release stocks to us from the Transvaal so that our transport distances are not too far. They would then replace the stocks by sea from abroad.
More: The Zimbabwean