Zimbabwe agreed to buy 150,000 tons of South African maize after a tender five times that size failed, leaving the country short of grain as the number of people without adequate food rises, according to people familiar with the situation.
The grain is being supplied by Export Trading Group, said the people, who asked not to be identified as a public announcement hasn't been made. The deal is for white maize, a staple food in Zimbabwe, and specifically non-genetically modified grain.
The southern African nation needs to import maize after a drought and floods from a cyclone slashed harvests. Zimbabwe's maize crop is expected to plummet 54% this year and Agriculture Secretary Ringson Chitsiko warned in March the country only had seven months of grain stockpiles, including maize.
The government chose to negotiate smaller deals like the one with ETG after failing to agree on payment terms for an at least 750,000-ton international tender, said the people. Zimbabwe is in the midst of its worst financial crisis since 2008 and is struggling to finance essential imports of fuel and wheat.
The tender attracted four bids, said one of the people. Last month, Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe's finance minister, said in an interview that three bids had been made without giving further details.
Sibusiso Moyo, the country's foreign minister and head of its grain importation committee, didn't respond to messages sent to his office. ETG declined to comment.
The bulk of Zimbabwe's white maize use is for human consumption. The country doesn't allow the cultivation of genetically modified maize and discourages its import.