Zimbabwe Facing Worst Food Shortage In 4 years

Zimbabwe Facing Worst Food Shortage In 4 years

About 2.2 million Zimbabweans will need food aid by the start 2014, up from 1.6 million early this year – the country’s worst food shortage in four years – according to World Food Program estimates.

Bad weather, power disruptions and a massive farming switch from grain to more profitable crops such as tobacco are being blamed for the food deficit, according to a report in AllAfrica.

One in three children in Zimbabwe is chronically malnourished; 25 percent of deaths under age 5 are attributed to nutritional deficiencies and 47 percent of women are anemic. The state of national nutrition is worrisome, President Robert Mugabe said in May, according to the report.

Zimbabwe needs 2 million tonnes of grain a year to feed its people and livestock but for the 2012-2013 season, production is projected to be around 789,000 tonnes, forcing the government to negotiate food imports with affordable prices.

Neighboring Zambia, which has a corn surplus, promised to help out with 150,000 tonnes of corn.

Corn is the main component of Zimbabweans’ favorite staple food sadza.

Zimbabwe is expected to produce less than 50,000 tonnes of wheat, while demand is about 400,000 tonnes, said Vice President Joyce Mujuru, chairwoman of the country’s food security and nutrition board. She blamed frequent power cuts and high input costs, among others, for the decline in domestic production.

According to state media reports, the banking sector has mobilized $620 million to finance farming for the 2013-2014 agricultural season, up from $549 million the previous year, but half of the money will go towards tobacco production.

Bankers Association of Zimbabwe President George Guvamatanga said 7.55 percent of the funds would be earmarked for cotton, 4.88 percent for seed production and less than 5 percent for corn.

Corn prices have not been favorable, with farmers opting for the more lucrative cash crops such as tobacco and cotton, the report said.