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Zimbabwe to Spend $133M on Maize Subsidies After Drought

Zimbabwe will next year spend 2.16 billion Zimbabwe dollars ($133 million) on subsidies for the staple maize meal as it seeks to keep prices of the most consumed food affordable amid food shortages and spiraling inflation.

Mthuli Ncube told state-owned television ZBC News on Dec. 20 that the government would fork over 180 million Zimbabwe dollars a month on the subsidy program and was considering subsidizing other goods as well.

The southern African nation’s population is enduring the worst economic crisis in a decade and a severe drought that has left millions facing hunger. U.N. rights expert Hilal Elver warned last month that poor rains and erratic weather combined with hyperinflation had left 5.5 million people food insecure.

Low dam water levels have meanwhile led to 18-hour power cuts that have hit output from industry and mines.

The government this year reintroduced the Zimbabwe dollar currency, ending a decade of dollarization, and also removed subsidies on electricity and fuel. Both of these actions unleashed rampant inflation, while wages lag behind.

“Our target is basically to inject 180 million Zimbabwe dollars to target the [maize] meal subsidy,” Ncube said. “We also intend to include other commodities going forward.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Nov. 28 announced the government would scrap its plan to remove grain subsidies next year, saying this would protect impoverished citizens from rising food prices.

Scarce foreign exchange has meant that even after Zimbabweans started paying more for the power and fuel, shortages have remained widespread.

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