With half the nation reported to be facing food shortages, the latest figures released by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNet) demand that the government should set up an independent investigation into where imported maize is going.
In its report for the period ending January FEWSNet says a total of 904 000 tonnes of maize had between imported between April and mid-January. The government imported 695 000 tonnes while aid agencies brought in 139 000 tonnes. The private sector imported the remainder.
The organisation says 1.4 million tonnes should, therefore, have been available in the country. Estimated consumption for the period should have been 1.16 million tonnes which should have left the country with a surplus of 240 000 tonnes. This maize is enough to feed the nation for one and a half months, yet there were severe food shortages both in rural and urban areas.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) 7.2 million people were in need of food in December. The figure has since been revised downwards to 6 million using the national census figures which estimated the population at 11.6 million. It is estimated that 67 percent of these people have already been given food. In the rural areas 4.1 million have been targeted.
FEWSNet says the government and aid agencies plan to import a further 633 000 tonnes which would leave the country with a surplus of 370 000 tonnes. But it says using the current rate of imports, the country is likely to have a carryover of 280 000 tones of maize. The South African railway operator Spoornet has indicated that it is investing R32.2 million to refurbish its wagons to speed up delivery of maize to Zimbabwe. It is reportedly bringing in 19 500 tonnes of grain every week.
FEWSNet estimates this year’s maize production at 800 000 tonnes. This would mean that the country will have a deficit of nearly 1 million tonnes. The actual deficit, it says , will depend on the carryover stock which would mean the deificit could be down to 700 000 tonnes.
A crop assessment is planned for this month to determine the potential production figures for this season. But FEWSNet says the consumption of green maize in some parts of the country should start easing the food crisis. Most households will, however, begin to have more food at the end of March when the crop matures and they begin normal harvest.
But shortages are likely to continue in the southern areas of Matebeleland South, especially in Gwanda, Beitbridge, Insiza and Matobo districts; in Masvingo especially in parts of Mwenezi, Chivi, Chiredzi and the southern part of Zaka districts.
In the Midlands, areas that are likely to be affected are Kwekwe, Gweru, Mberengwa and Zvishavane, while in Matebeleland north Tsholotsho, Hwange, Nkayi and Bubi will be affected leaving only Lupane and Binga.