While genetically modified corn imports from South Africa are being allowed, the grain is carefully quarantined and is milled into a corn meal, three officials with knowledge of the situation said. At present corn meal, which used to make a staple food known locally as sadza, is in short supply across the nation, Bloomberg reported.
Zimbabwe is battling its worst drought in 40 years and is in the midst of an economic collapse. That's left eight million people, or half the population, in need of food aid.
Aside from in South Africa, genetically modified corn is shunned across sub-Saharan Africa and in Zimbabwe measures are being implemented to stop the grain from entering national seed stocks.
A logistics team has been sent to South Africa to have oversight of the grain-import exercise, one of the unnamed sources said. There are plans to provide special clearance for trucks bringing in grain to avoid delays at southern Africa's busiest border, Beitbridge between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
"Government weighs its position on genetically modified corn against the nutritional needs of the nation and proceeds guided by that assessment," said government spokesman Nick Mangwana.
The country's corn harvest is expected to plunge by half this season and there is a likely supply deficit of between 800,000 tons one million tons.
Weekly imports of white corn, the variety used mainly for human consumption in the country, reached their highest in seven years, with 13,688 tons imported in the week ending January 24.
The millers' association on January 22 said it had signed up for a monthly supply of 100,000 tons of corn from South Africa. Until now there has been little evidence of sufficient corn imports coming into the country.
The Industry and Commerce Ministry has 65 registered millers that have signed up for its corn-subsidy programme, which the government rolled out in December in an effort to provide affordable corn-meal.