September 20, 2004

Food supplies dwindle, warns US-report

Food supplies are declining in most rural districts of Zimbabwe and households will be forced to depend on insufficient official stocks, a monitoring body warned in its latest report. The warning comes a week after the head of the state-run grain marketing board (GMB) admitted the country's sole grain purchasing agency was likely to receive only 750.000 tons of maize this season, way below the southern African country's needs. "As more households rely on the market to obtain their cereal needs, food security will depend more and more on the grain marketing board," the famine early warning systems network said in its monthly food security update.
But the US-funded agency warned: "The quantity of grain collected by the GMB as of mid-August is insufficient to meet the needs in urban centres and rural areas with deficit production." It said people in rural areas were depending on their own dwindling stocks of grain to survive. In urban areas, food security is also threatened. While basic commodities are available, many households cannot afford them, the report said. "Hyperinflation, high rates of unemployment and low wages contribute to food insecurity in urban areas," the report said.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has furthermore claimed that the government's figures on the country's food stocks have been distorted so that food handouts can be used to buy voter support ahead of next year's general elections. The government denies the charge, saying it will not let anyone starve.
As Information minister Moyo suggested in an interview with the Herald newspaper that even if there was malnutrition in Zimbabwe it wouldn't amount to a serious health problem. "Malnutrition is just ... a case of not having a balanced diet. ... People in the USA are fat because they eat too many burgers. That's malnutrition," Moyo said. He disputed the low harvest forecast and said the country will produce a record 2.4 million tons of grain this year, well in excess of the annual consumption of at least 1.8 million tons, mostly of the corn staple. "There is no food crisis in Zimbabwe," Moyo said. According to Moyo, farmers are keeping grain at home this year. Statistics from previous years indicate grain farmers have traditionally held on to some stocks for home consumption, but sold the rest to generate cash for items like school fees and essential items. (News24, South Africa/AP/VOA News)

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