Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that Zimbabwe was expecting a harvest of 800 000 tonnes of maize but needed to import 1.2 million tonnes because farmers tended to keep most of their harvest in times of drought.
Goche said the government only expected to receive 300 000 so it needed to import 1.2 million tonnes to meet the national demand of 1.5 million tonnes.
The country was already importing 25 000 tonnes a week from South Africa and wanted to increase this to 35 000 tonnes a week.
Dell said the United States was prepared to help as long as it was asked to and the government showed that there was demand for the food.
But in his commentary to a cable dispatched in June 2005, he doubted that the government had the money to import such a huge quantity of maize and wanted the embassy in Pretoria as well as the agricultural counsellor there to check on the exports to Zimbabwe.
Viewing cable 05HARARE773, GOZ TELLS AMBASSADOR, WFP FOOD SITUATION UNDER
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000773
DEPT FOR U/S BURNS; AF A/S NEWMAN/DAS WOODS; OVP FOR
NULAND; NES FOR ABRAMS, COURVILLE; USAID FOR NATSIOS,
DEPARTMENT PASS EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2015
SUBJECT: GOZ TELLS AMBASSADOR, WFP FOOD SITUATION UNDER
Classified By: Classified by Eric T. Schultz, reasons 1.4 (b)(d)
¶1. (C) In a June 2 meeting with the Ambassador, Minister for
Social Welfare Nicholas Goche said Zimbabwe faced a shortfall
of 1.2 million metric tons of maize, but that the GOZ had
already locked in enough imports from South Africa to cover
the shortfall. In that framework, the GOZ was prepared to
accept international assistance. Goche added that the GOZ
was also trying to build up a strategic reserve. The
Ambassador responded that we would only provide food if asked
and if needed. He urged Goche to keep in mind that it would
take several months for U.S. food to reach southern Africa.
At a June 1 meeting with the diplomatic corps, WFP Executive
Director James Morris had reported receiving a similar
message and noted that the GOZ had 60 days to increase
imports or ask for assistance before food stocks were
depleted and serious shortages ensued. He also said he had
delivered a personal message from Kofi Annan to Mugabe on the
GOZ,s recent crackdown. End Summary.
Goche Waxes Panglossian
¶2. (C) Goche said because of drought in February and March
the maize harvest would be on the order of only 800,000 MTs.
In times of drought, farmers tended to keep a larger
percentage of their harvest. The GOZ was therefore planning
to receive only about 300,000 MTs from the harvest, against a
national need of 1.5 million MTs. The government had taken
quick action earlier this year to fill the 1.2 million
shortfall. The GOZ had contracted at favorable prices to
import the full amount from South Africa and was currently
receiving roughly 25,000 MTs a week. The food was likely to
be distributed through the food for work program, as well as
¶3. (C) However, Goche said there was a parallel effort
underway by &other arms of the government8 to bring in
additional imports and to build up the country,s reserves.
The goal was to import 35,000 MTs a week. He would
personally not rest easy until they reached that figure,
which would give the country a margin of safety. Goche said
international assistance was welcome within this framework,
which was what he and President Mugabe had told the visiting
Executive Director of the UN,s World Food Program (WFP),
James Morris, the day before.
Ambassador: Don,t Wait Too Long To Ask
¶4. (C) The Ambassador responded that the U.S. traditionally
provided the bulk of WFP food assistance, especially maize.
The U.S. was prepared to respond to a request from Zimbabwe
for assistance provided a clear need was demonstrated. The
U.S. owed it to its citizens not to &choke8 Zimbabwe with
food assistance, in the colorful words of President Mugabe,
if it was not really needed. He noted that it took a minimum
of three months to procure and ship U.S. corn to southern
Africa and advised Goche to keep this delay in mind should an
appeal ultimately be forthcoming. Goche took the point,
noting that the real minimum time needed was more likely to
be six months.
¶5. (C) The Ambassador noted that distribution would be key.
He understood that Morris and President Mugabe had agreed
that WFP would use its traditional NGO implementing partners.
In that regard, he advised that the overall climate for NGOs
was important and that the GOZ needed to reduce the
bureaucratic demands it placed on them. Goche said the GOZ
had agreed to use the WFP,s traditional formula should an
appeal be needed. It had worked well in the past and there
was no reason to depart from it. This included an umbrella
MOU between the WFP and GOZ that would cover the activities
of all NGOs (contrary to what he had told Morris the day
before ) that each NGO would need a separate MOU). He added
that the GOZ regarded most NGOs favorably, it was only a
handful that had failed to comply with Zimbabwe laws that had
¶6. (C) At a June 1 luncheon, WFP,s Morris provided the
diplomatic corps with a readout of his visit. He said he had
come with a private message for Mugabe from Kofi Annan on the
GOZ,s recent crack down, which Morris would only note
included an appeal to treat people &humanely.8 On food
assistance, Morris said Mugabe had told him the GOZ was
importing 1.2 million MTs for immediate needs and another
600,000 MTs for their reserve. In that regard, there had
been no response to Morris, request for an estimate of the
scale of food needs and the GOZ had stuck to the line that
though not needed any help volunteered would be welcome.
However, based on field reports, the WFP had increased its
estimate of regional needs to 700,000 MTs. He added that the
GOZ had food for the next 60 days, after which it could face
serious shortages if imports did not arrive or assistance
were not provided. In the event of an appeal, Mugabe had
agreed to allow the WFP to work through its traditional
partners and had agreed that the GOZ would have no role in
distribution nor would it interfere.
¶7. (C) We are highly dubious that the GOZ has enough foreign
exchange to pay for 1.2 million MTs of corn, let alone 1.8
million, and would appreciate the views of Embassy
Pretoria,s Ag Counselor on whether South African exports to
Zimbabwe have increased. We believe it is equally unlikely
the GOZ will be able to distribute such quantities through
the food for work program, should they succeed in importing
the grain. Finally, if it is true that the GOZ has allocated
sufficient foreign exchange to obtain the corn on its own,
then it must be at enormous cost to the rest of the economy,
including likely prolonged fuel shortages that will cripple