Politics has once again come into play as debate about whether Zimbabwe is food self-sufficient or not continues.
The government has already announced that it will not appeal for food aid assistance this year. It is prepared to import enough grain to make up for any shortfalls.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has announced that it expects this year’s yield to be around 1.7 million tones of maize. This is more than double last year’s estimate and is similar to the 1990s average.
According to the latest report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the crop is based on the assumption of that 1 571 000 ha. were put under maize and the yield will be 1 100 kg per ha.
FEWS says this yield is most unlikely because farmers planted recycled seed because hybrid seed was too expensive. It also says there was poor rainfall in the first half of the season and there was reduced contribution from large-scale (white)commercial farmers.
Other factors that affected the production were reduced use of fertliser and limited labour.
It says a more likely range for national maize yield is 800kg to 1 100 kg per hectare putting this year’s crop at between 1 260 000 tonnes and 1 700 000 tonnes.
FEWS says there are two likely scenarios. The worst case scenario is where total grain production would be 1 491 000 tonnes. This together with Grain Marketing Board stocks of 200000 at the beginning of the season would leave a deficit of 509000 tonnes.
The best case scenario sees a yield of 1 930 000 tonnes leaving a deficit of 70 000 tonnes.
FEWS says over the past three years, the government has managed to import significant quantities of maize despite the severe foreign currency shortages. Based on this, it is most likely that the government will manage to meet its import requirements even in the worst case scenario.
Critics, especially of the land reform programme, however, continue to argue that Mugabe’s administration will not be able to feed the people claiming that he is using food as a political tool to win the crucial 2005 elections.
Others argue that Mugabe claims to be food self-sufficient to justify his land reform programme and to give the impression that it is a success.
Zimbabwe was a net food exporter prior to the land reform programme. Mugabe’s administration argues that the programme is meant to boost production and not to destroy it.
Central bank governor Gideon Gono said in his monetary review policy for the first quarter ended March that the country had already received more foreign currency inflows in the first three months of this year than it received the whole of last year.