Harare – Zimbabwe is importing 150 000 tonnes of maize from neighbouring South Africa to guarantee food supplies before the April harvest, a senior official has said, with an estimated 2.2 million people at risk. “We are importing maize from South Africa to cover the gap between now and the next harvest,” deputy agriculture minister David Marapira told AFP today. At least 2.2 million people in rural areas will require food aid before the April harvest, according to a survey by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee which groups government and aid agencies. “So far, we have received 300 tonnes by road through Bulawayo (city) and will be moved to other parts of the country. The total we are importing is 150 000 tonnes and we are hoping this will cover the period between now and April.” Zimbabwe has been facing perennial food shortages prompting the government to import maize from neighbours to augment local production. Poor food production has been blamed on land reforms which saw the seizure of white-owned commercial farmers under President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms for redistribution to landless blacks. The government says poor rains in recent years are to blame for the drop in food production. Zimbabwe needs over two million tonnes of maize annually but last year the country produced only 800 000 tonnes, a drop from 1.4 million tonnes the previous year. Last year the government signed a deal to import maize but deliveries have been slow, Marapira said. “We are still getting maize imports from Zambia but the movement of the maize has been very slow,” he said. Zimbabwe has a population of almost 14 million people.