About 1,7 million people require food aid in Zimbabwe this year, Acting President Joice Mujuru has said.
She attributed the situation to drought conditions experienced in the previous farming season.
Officially launching the Sirdamaize 113 drought-tolerant maize variety developed by the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre in Harare yesterday, the Acting President challenged researchers to come up with new crop varieties that are not prone to the vagaries of climate change.
"According to the 2012 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee Survey, an estimated 1,7 million people in Zimbabwe require food assistance today and household food insecurity, in Zimbabwe, and indeed other parts of the world, has been attributed to recurrent droughts and the absence of suitable crop varieties," she said.
"In the face of this challenge, the Government has over years implored agricultural research centres to come up with new crop varieties suitable for drought-prone areas."
According to the final crop assessment report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development 1 689 786 hectares were put under maize during the 2011/12 agriculture season.
Forty-five percent of the crop, which is 722 557 ha, was a complete write-off.
Among the worst affected provinces are Masvingo which had 155 484 ha, Midlands with 137 663 ha and Manicaland (94 271) of their maize crops written off.
Acting President Mujuru applauded Sirdc for responding to Government's plea by introducing a new drought-tolerant maize variety.
She said this would contribute towards improved food security in Zimbabwe in line with Government policy.
"This effort is well in line with the aspirations contained in the Food and Nutrition Security Policy which was recently adopted by Government.
"This policy was a result of the collaborative efforts of Government ministries and various stakeholders co-ordinated by the Office of the Presidency and Cabinet and the Sirdc's Food and Nutrition Council, and we commend them for a job well done," she said.
The Acting President said the Sirdamaize 113 variety demonstrated Government's commitment to increasing and diversifying agricultural production capacity in Zimbabwe. Sirdc used the molecular marker-assisted selection techniques and conventional plant breeding methods to come up with the Sirdamaize 113.
The Sirdc research was done in partnership with rural farmers in Hwedza and Buhera districts, making the variety home grown and suitable to Zimbabwe's climatic conditions.
The research started 15 years ago and was funded by Sirdc to the tune of US$200 000. About 200 tonnes of Sirdamaize 113 would be available on the market during for the 2012/2013 summer cropping season. This will cover 8 000 hectares for commercial grain production with Sirdc indicating that it had put in place an expanded programme to successively increase the amount of the Sirdamaize 113 variety to meet demand for drought-tolerant seed maize by the nation.
Acting President Mujuru encouraged farmers in marginal rainfall and drought-prone areas to adopt drought-tolerant seed maize like the Sirdamaize 113 in their plans for the coming planting season.
Key characteristics of the Sirdamaize 113 include early maturity (136 days), drought tolerance and resistance to foliar diseases such as maize streak virus, grey leaf spot and maize rust.