May 19, 2004

Zimbabwe: Food production this year even lower than last year’s

Harvesting of the main season crops planted in November-December 2003 is underway. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission was in the country for part of the planned period. Based on the mission’s visits to three main provinces, observations along the travel routes and interviews with informants at local level, the mission estimated that total food production this year would be even lower than last year’s 980 000 tonnes.

The overall food deficit (import requirement) could be over 1 million tonnes. Final estimates would be provided by FAO and WFP in the first half of June. The decline in production is attributed to delayed and erratic rainfall, shortages of quality seeds, the high local cost of fertilizer, shortages of draught animal power and tractors, a further decline in the utilization of large-scale commercial farms, and the impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic.

At the beginning of the agricultural season in October very few farmers were able to plant maize due to insufficient and scattered showers. The ensuing dry spell destroyed many first plantings. Effectively, rains started throughout much of the country in late December-early January, pushing back maize and sorghum start-of-season in many areas. In recent years, domestic cereal production has covered less than half of the country’s domestic requirements. Escalating inflation, currently on the order of 600 percent per annum, is further eroding purchasing power, thus greatly limiting access to food for the most vulnerable groups. WFP’s monthly food distribution data under the current Emergency Operation (EMOP) shows that a total of 314 357 tonnes of food was distributed from July 2003 to April 2004, with a planned distribution of 10 000 tonnes for May-June. The number of beneficiaries peaked in March 2004 at 4.4 million. (FAO/ZWNews)

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