- In the 2003-04 agricultural season, even less hectares than during last year's season have been planted. Combined with poor to adequate rains, this will increase Zimbabwe's food deficit even more this year. Little help is expected from abroad.
The latest food security report from Zimbabwe - compiled by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) and the National Early Warning System of Zimbabwe (NEWU) - today revealed that no improvements are to be expected in the country's dire food security situation. Some five million Zimbabweans already are in need on food aid and upcoming harvests will not provide much relief.
This year only around 70 to 80 percent of the land has been planted with major crops as compared to the same time last year. Last year also had represented a major reduction in Zimbabwe's planted acreage and harvests were far from enough to feed the impoverished national population.
According to FEWS and NEWU, "a shortage of seed, high seed prices, shortage of draft power and erratic and patchy rainfall explain the reduction in area planted." The controversial land reform earlier had contributed to a rapid decline in planted land and this has not been recovered yet, the current study shows.
Zimbabwe's major food crop, maize, has experienced a sharp decline in planted area. Only 77 percent of last year's area planted with maize has been taken into maize production this agricultural season, according to data gathered by the Harare Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services.
Also the country's major cash and export crop, tobacco, experiences yet another year of decline. Areas planted with tobacco have been reduced with some 20 percent compared with last year - a year that already had seen large reduction in tobacco production - according to data from the same source.
Only the area planted with small grains has experienced a major expansion this agricultural season. Acreages planted with sorghum, rapoko, and millet have more than doubled compared to last year. These more drought resistant crops however yield much less than maize and the increase in their planting area is less than the loss in maize planting land. Also the groundnut growing area has slightly increased, by 9 percent.
Small grains and groundnuts are normally produced from retained seed and small grains are usually dry planted. "Therefore, seed availability, its price and poor soil moisture appear not to have had the same limiting effect on small grain crops and groundnuts as they had on the other crops," FEWS explains.
Assuming the current cereal crop conditions will continue, the area planted so far is likely to produce national totals ranging from 800,000 metric tons to 900,000 tons, Harare authorities assume. This is about 33 to 38 percent of the estimated annual national cereal requirements for both human and livestock consumption.
- A lukewarm donor response to the appeal for food assistance is limiting the ability of the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners to meet the needs of all food insecure households, the agencies warn. "Only 54 percent of the estimated 610,000 tons of emergency food aid had been secured by end of December 2003."
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