The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, which represents the country’s major milling companies, said it wants the government to impose a 40 percent tariff on imports of corn and corn meal because its struggling to compete with cheaper South African corn grown from genetically modified seeds.
The imports are harming Zimbabwe’s attempts to improve food security by boosting local production, Tafadzwa Musarara, the chairman of the association said in an e-mailed response to questions on Thursday.
“The local milling industry has been on the end of the stick with regards to South African imports as South African millers literally dumped cheap GMO maize meal into our economy and its time Zimbabwe realign its economy by localizing production of its staple foods,” he said. Zimbabwe also imports corn from Zambia.
Zimbabwe, once a corn exporter to its neighbors, has been importing the grain since a failed land reform program that began around 2000 during which mainly white commercial farmers were stripped of their land. That land was then redistributed to black subsistence farmers.
Zimbabwe has spent $7 billion on corn and corn product imports since 2002, Musarara said.
The association has committed to buying 800,000 metric tons of locally grown corn and 100,000 tons of locally grown wheat this season, the association said in a separate submission to parliament. The country has wheat stocks of 115,000 tons, which it is struggling to use because of wheat flour imports, it said.
“Decisions are not made on the basis of complaints by millers, what if South Africa retaliates, what will we do?,” said Godfrey Kanyenze, an economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe. “We must be careful and not shoot ourselves in the foot by making a populist decision which we may end up reversing.”