Fuel and wheat shortages may be on the cards for Zim after Cyclone Idai

Zim economy faces logistics turmoil from Idai's toll on Beira

24 March 2019 - 00:00 By RAY NDLOVU

Businesses in Zimbabwe face upheaval and higher costs after Cyclone Idai devastated the Mozambican port city of Beira.
Beira, Zimbabwe's closest port, is a lifeline for imports and exports, lying just 300km from the Mutare border post, 560km from Harare and 860km from Bulawayo.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said 90% of the city of 530,000 people was wiped out when one of the worst storms to hit Southern Africa struck the coast 10 days ago.
"The scale of damage caused by Cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying," it said.
Beira mayor Daviz Simango said there was total devastation and the "majority of public buildings are damaged; we will have to begin again". In the meantime there are growing fears of a cholera outbreak.
Three days of mourning were declared by President Filipe Nyusi, who estimates the Mozambican death toll - now officially 417 - will rise to more than 1,000. In 2000, Cyclone Eline claimed 700 lives.
In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared yesterday and today as days of national mourning.
"The two days should allow us to concentrate and focus our thoughts on this tragedy, which is sure to ramify in many ways in the lives of our people and that of our nation," said Mnangagwa.
UN agencies said yesterday 259 people had been killed in Zimbabwe, with 217 missing. The official government tally is 139 dead and 189 missing. In Malawi, there have been 56 confirmed deaths and the government estimates 920,000 people have been displaced.
Mohammed Abdiker, International Organisation of Migration director of operations and emergencies, said: "A week after the cyclone we're starting to grasp the scope and complexity of the challenges facing the governments and peoples of these three nations."
RELATED: Dead go unburied as floods cut roads
On top of the fatalities, damage and health threats, the governments in Harare, Maputo and Blantyre are grappling with disruptions to commerce and industry.
Zimbabwe business leaders said fuel and wheat may soon run out as damage to road and rail infrastructure holds up imports.
Sifelani Jabangwe, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, said Beira's proximity meant it was the country's primary port. It handles more than 12Mt of goods annually for countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
"Beira is the most preferred port by industries in the country. In light of Cyclone Idai we are likely to see a shift to other ports such as Maputo and Durban, but this will increase the costs for companies," said Jabangwe.
"So far business has not been able to quantify the damage. We expect transport costs to increase for companies, but largely we don't expect increases for consumers. It is our hope that some shortages can be averted."
The "bigger challenge", Jabangwe said, was the Beira-Feruka fuel pipeline between Mozambique and Mutare, which brings in 90% of Zimbabwe's fuel.
"We understand that repair work at the fuel pipeline is under way at the moment, and it is mainly the [fuel] offloading facilities that suffered the most damage from the cyclone," he said.
Energy minister Jorum Gumbo said there was no risk of fuel shortages and damage to the pipeline would be fixed within a week.
However, fuel queues have been seen in Harare and Bulawayo since the pipeline was shut as a precautionary measure when Cyclone Idai made landfall late on March 14.
RELATED: Emmerson Mnangagwa vs Nelson Chamisa amid tragedy
An official at Total Zimbabwe, Chris Kasima, said damage at Beira meant oil tankers were unable to dock to discharge their loads. The pumping house roof had been blown away and electrical infrastructure had been damaged.
"The stocks in Msasa [in Harare] may not be replenished in due time as required and this is likely to put pressure on the supply chain," he said.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe said problems with importing wheat could affect the supply of bread. According to the National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe, the country consumes 1.5-million loaves a day.
The association said its wheat imports at Beira were wet and it had diverted another consignment to Maputo.
It was unclear whether insurers will pay out on cyclone claims, with several refusing to comment. Local government minister July Moyo said he was not aware of any government disaster insurance.
Insurance Council of Zimbabwe CEO Oliver Guni said catastrophic insurance cover was available, but was expensive and most providers were based abroad.
"In agriculture, we have seen participants in that line of business including cover for floods, damage to crops, and that is available. [But] cyclones, tsunamis, hurricanes, those are not readily available … so for you to have that aspect of coverage you have to pay a premium and that is quite is expensive," Guni said. - Additional reporting by Sharon Mazingaizo
RELATED: Life-and-death calls haunt rescuers
RELATED: Cyclone Idai death toll may exclude undocumented people

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.