Zimbabwe requires at least 1.8 million tons of maize annually and has over the years relied on imports from neighbouring countries, including Zambia and South Africa, to plug the gap from local production.

The government will import between 500,000 to 700,00 tonnes to ensure that the strategic grain reserve is maintained at the levels they are supposed to, Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Minister, Dr Joseph Mada says.

Agriculture is critical to Zimbabwe's economy, generating 30 percent of export earnings and contributing 19 percent to GDP, while 70 percent of the population still survives on farming.

"It is the government's responsibility to be the main supplier of food," the Herald newspaper quoted Made as saying.

"Even if the rains were to come, it will not benefit the crops to the level that we will be secure 100 percent on our own," said Made.

The country’s meteorological service department has said rainfall in most areas of the country will be below normal and the season is expected to be shorter than normal; thereby limiting the growing season.

According to Made, the number of people in need of food aid is rising in the western and southern parts of the country.

"We have allowed millers to import grain. Millers have been given permits to import 1.2 million tonnes of maize in the past 12 months but they have only imported 450,000 tonnes," he said