By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Zimbabwe is importing unmilled,
genetically-modified (GMO) yellow maize from Argentina, despite an
official ban on such products, trading sources and other monitors told
Reuters on Friday.
But a senior Zimbabwean minister said his
government remained opposed to unmilled maize and said he was unaware
of such shipments.
"Zimbabwe is importing yellow maize from
Argentina which is known to be GMO -- one vessel is coming into port
now to offload 7,000 tonnes in Maputo, Mozambique, and 7,400 tonnes in
Beira," said one trader.
The trader said another ship was being loaded in Argentina with a similar cargo also destined for Zimbabwe.
Another source who monitors food shipments in the region confirmed the same details to Reuters.
Like many African countries, Zimbabwe is suspicious of GMO foods on the
grounds that they have not been adequately tested. In the past it has
said it would accept only milled GMO foodstuffs to avoid cross-breeding
with local crops.
"This is definitely unmilled, bulk maize," said the trader.
But Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, in charge of land reform,
resettlement and food security, told Reuters that he was not aware of
"To be honest I have never heard of that. They
would have to consult with me but no one has done so. Maybe they might
be ordering it for livestock but I don't think so either," he said.
"That policy (against unmilled GMO maize) is steadfast, we continue to
maintain it. It has not been reviewed and my (cabinet) colleagues have
not changed their position," he said.
What no one denies is Zimbabwe's pressing food needs.
Aid agencies have said about 4.3 million Zimbabweans require food aid
until at least the April harvest because of a scorching drought last
But critics say Zimbabwe's controversial seizures of
white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks have also
hampered food production.
Maize from Argentina seems to be the flavour of the month.
Even regional breadbasket South Africa has imported some yellow maize
from Argentina because it is cheaper than the locally grown product.
The World Food Programme has said higher South African maize prices
have forced a rethink in its plans and it is looking elsewhere to buy
South Africa's March contract for yellow maize closed 3 rand higher on Friday at 950 rand a tonne.
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