Figures don’t add up


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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.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 05HARARE773, GOZ TELLS AMBASSADOR, WFP FOOD SITUATION UNDER

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE773

2005-06-03 09:35

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR U/S BURNS; AF A/S NEWMAN/DAS WOODS; OVP FOR

NULAND; NES FOR ABRAMS, COURVILLE; USAID FOR NATSIOS,

PEARSON

DEPARTMENT PASS EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2015

TAGS: ECON EINV PGOV PHUM ZT

SUBJECT: GOZ TELLS AMBASSADOR, WFP FOOD SITUATION UNDER

CONTROL

 

Classified By: Classified by Eric T. Schultz, reasons 1.4 (b)(d)

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

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

commercially.

 

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.

 

——–

NGO Role

——–

 

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

created problems.

 

————

Morris Visit

————

 

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.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

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

economic activity.

DELL

(20 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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