Maize, ground to mealie meal and made into sadza, is, and has always been, the staple diet of the majority of Zimbabweans. White maize (sometimes Flint Maize) as opposed to yellow maize or 'corn' is the most common in Africa.

History

When the Pioneer Column arrived in 1890, maize was found to be grown here, and they obtained seed from them. There are indications it was introduced here some time before C19.

In 1903, the Department of Agriculture was formed, a journal was published, and experimental farms were established, all with the objective of producing sufficient product to be exported. About 50 000 bags were grown then, all consumed locally. In 1909, enough was produced to allow for substantial exports. In 1921, a survey showed that that year's crop of 1 200 000 bags was produced by 963 farmers. A breeding programme began in 1932, and seed was available by 1949 - 1950.

Falling prices around 1931 led to the formation of the Maize Control Board, then WW2 disruptions led to the Maize Control Act in 1940, which was replaced in 1950 by the Grain Marketing Act, which set up a government monopoly on most grains including beans, rapoko, sorghum, mhunga and others. In 1952 the Grain Marketing Board replaced the Maize Control Board and became, outside the subsistence economy, the sole authority for marketing grains in the country.

Maize was Zimbabwe's most valuable crop until WW2 when it was overtaken by tobacco. [1]

In 2007/08 government set up the Grain Mobilisation Programme.
See Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).

Production

1985 - 1986, area under maize was estimated at 200 000ha. Average yield 4.0 tonnes/ha. End 1983 - 84 (drought year), stocks held by GMB were 122 700 tonnes.

Maize Production 1979 - 1985
Farm Type 79/80 80/81 81/82 82/83 83/84 84/85 85/86
Large Commercial
Area (000ha) 191 218 287 262 223 190 200
Yield (t/ha) 3 699 4 066 5 975 4 277 2 582 4 300 5 900
Small Commercial
Area (000ha) 30 31 39 46 49 30 40
Yield (t/ha) n/a n/a 2 522 1 518 472 400 700
Communal
Area (000ha) 600 900 1 114 1 100 1 050 1 136 1 188
Crop reaped 420 700 957 595 285 454 1712
Est. Total (000t) 1 160 1 625 2 767 1 706 844 1 283 2 960

In 1986, eight locally produced hybrids were readily available. Early to late maturing varieties.

In May 2022, it was reported that Zimbabwe needed 2.2 million tonnes of maize annually for human and livestock consumption. And Zimbabwe would be importing 400 000 tonnes of maize from Malawi and Zambia, as a reduced harvest was expected in 2022, blamed on erratic rains. Food insecurity has been often felt since the turn of the century (2000) since white-owned farms where seized and frequent droughts have been endured over the years. Conditions were expected to worsen with rising temperatures due to climate change.

Government forecast maize production for the 2021/22 season at 1.56 million tonnes, down from the 20/21 season’s multi-year record of 2.72 million tonnes.

In a statement by GMAZ chairman Tafadzwa Musarara the maize was expected to be received from the end of June. Prices were increasing, with millers citing higher import and production costs. The government responded by allowing citizens to import maize meal and other food items duty free. In March, maize meal and wheat flour prices were increased by millers by 15 percent, followed by further hikes of 52 percent and 31 percent for maize meal and wheat flour, respectively, in April. Food price inflation has worsened the challenges of a country battling to recover from an extended economic crisis, which was exacerbated by Covid-19 and the rapid devaluation of a local currency reintroduced in 2019.

Zimbabwe, which suffered 500 billion percent hyperinflation in December 2008 according to the International Monetary Fund, is experiencing another phase of rapid price increases, with year-on-year inflation rising to 131.7 percent in May, up from 60.6 percent in January. [2]

Bhasera letter

In May 2022, the secretary of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, John Bhasera, recently sent a memo to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) chief executive officer Rockie Mutenha stating that only 5000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize have been delivered to GMB out of an estimated 30 000 MT. In the memo, seen by Pindula News, Bhasera said the parastatal should conduct grain busting operations to prevent side marketing. [3]

Planting and Weed Control (1986 best practice)

Maize is best planted by mid-November. Later panting will result in lower yiilds (in regular conditions).
Row widths - 100cm, 90cm and 75cm. Increased herbicide use leading to 75cm being more common (USA widths are usually 75cm).
Depth - commonly 50mm.

Fertilisation

Nitrogen, sulphur, phosphate and potassium most frequently added chemicals.

Irrigation

Can produce yeilds above 10 tonnes per hectare.

Pests

Maize stalk borer, maize snout beetle, cutworms, surface beetles, Africa armyworm, maize caterpillar, cobworm, termits, leaf hoppers and aphids.

Harvesting

March (for early planted), May to July for late planted.

Drying and Storage

Natural and artificial drying can be widely used.

[4]

  1. [R. Kent Rasmussen (ed), Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia] (The Scarecrow Press, London, 1979) Retrieved 27 July 2021"
  2. Zimbabwe to import 400,000 tonnes of maize from Malawi, Zambia, ZimLive.com, Published: 25 May 2022, Retrieved: 26 May 2022
  3. Set up maize permit inspections at road blocks, Pindula, Published: 30 May 2022, Retrieved: 30 May 2022
  4. [Katherine Sayce (Ed), Tabex, Encyclopedia Zimbabwe], Tabex, Encyclopedia Zimbabwe, (Quest Publishing, Harare, 1987), Retrieved: 25 July 2019