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Zimbabwe to step up maize imports

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Zimbabwe is planning to import up to 700,000 tonnes of the staple maize this year to avert hunger as the El Nino weather pattern brings poor rains and affects crops in the Southern African nation.

Last year the government imported only 100,000 tonnes as of November, but Agriculture Minister said that Zimbabwe had received less than three quarters of its rainfall needs in November and December, the first two months of the agricultural season, which will worsen food shortages.

The government plans to allocate $260 million to import between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes of maize in 2016.

Agriculture is critical to Zimbabwe’s economy, generating 30 percent of export earnings and contributing 19 percent to GDP, while 70 percent of the population still survives on farming.

It was not immediately clear how the government would raise money for maize imports as it struggles to pay salaries for public sector workers. The government has allowed millers to import grain but is vague about quantities.