3 July 2010

Zimbabwe: Food Shortages to Worsen in Drought-Prone Areas

Bulawayo — The southern parts of the country are expected to suffer acute grain shortages, with more people expected to rely on food aid.

The United States-funded Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) reported that the availability of grain was likely to deteriorate through September until the end of the farming season in March next year.

"The food security situation in the southern, western and some eastern parts of the country is likely to deteriorate through September and food assistance will be required for the vulnerable households both in rural and urban areas," reads the report.

The report by Fewsnet is likely to put the government in a spot of bother.

A number of Zanu PF ministers announced earlier that Zimbabwe would not accept food aid as this was being used as a tool for regime change.

Earlier this year, Agriculture and Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister, Joseph Made announced that the government had banned donor agencies from dolling out free food. Matabeleland South governor, Angeline Masuku also said her province, which is drought prone and is among the hardest hit, would reject any food aid.

Early this year Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai conducted a tour of farming areas describing the farming season as catastrophic.

He said at least US$500 million was needed to offset the food deficit, but so far his appeals had not achieved much.

The farming season runs between October and March with food insecurity in rural areas peaking around January and February.

The most affected areas are the southern districts, Binga, Kariba, Mudzi and the southern parts of Manicaland.

Fewsnet noted that the supply of grain had remained favourable throughout the country, though the cost of living had remained high.

"The cost of living for the majority of poor urban households is likely to remain high, making it difficult for these households to meet their basic food and non-food requirements."

Already there is a food deficit of 416 000 metric tonnes of grain, due to poor imports and unimpressive harvests and this is set to worsen in October, when the traditional "hunger" season sets in, continued the report.

The northern parts of the country have 10 months of food supply, while most of the country only harvested food to last them untill the end of this May.

Fewsnet noted that there were pockets of moderately food insecure households who failed to produce anything from the 2009/2010 agricultural season and these would need food assistance at the beginning of October.

Initial reports indicated that about 2,2 million people were in need of food aid.

Zimbabwe has had to rely on food aid since President Robert Mugabe embarked on a chaotic and ill advised land reform programme a decade ago.

Thousands of white commercial farmers were pushed off their land, since then the country has experienced successive grain deficits.

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