HARARE, March 19 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe faces a huge grain deficit this year after a third of the current maize crop was written off due to a prolonged dry spell, state media reported on Monday.
The southern African country, once a regional bread basket, has struggled to feed itself since 2000 when President Robert Mugabe embarked on the seizure of white-owned commercial farms to resettle landless blacks.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that the government had halted sales from its strategic grain reserves after a state crop assessment showed that a third of the 1.689 million hectares put under maize had been declared a write-off.
Although the production of the staple maize has rebounded from its low of 400,000 tonnes in 2007/08 to 1.35 million tonnes in 2010/11, the country still struggles to meet its annual grain consumption of nearly 2 million tonnes.
Zimbabwe is likely to resort to grain imports, although there were fears that regional suppliers South Africa, Zambia and Malawi may not be in a position to export.
"There are indications that our neighbouring countries are likely to have grain shortages. We are calling farmers to...show how much in terms of grain they are likely to deliver," Made was quoted as saying. (Reporting by Nelson Banya; editing by Jason Neely)