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April 10, 2008

Floods, long dry spells, politics threaten food security in Zimbabwe

Drought in several Zimbabwean provinces is likely to damage the main 2008 maize harvest and could worsen an already tight food security situation there, the United Nations' food agency said on April 10.

"The food security situation in Zimbabwe is critical," Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement. "Food insecurity for about one-third of the vulnerable population keeps worsening."

Zimbabwe's economy lies in ruins with the world's highest inflation, chronic food shortages and long queues for bread. Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe now needs to import maize.

Political deadlock since March 29 elections also threatens to worsen Zimbabwe's crisis. The opposition says it beat veteran President Robert Mugabe and he should step down, but results have still not been announced from the presidential election.

Mugabe's foes blame his policies for ruining the economy. He says Western sanctions are responsible.

The Rome-based FAO said maize growth and yields for the harvest in May and June are likely to be hit by prolonged dry spells since February in several provinces, which came after floods in some low lying areas in December and January,

Zimbabwe has so far imported about 81 percent of its 1.03 million tonnes of cereal import needs for 2007/08, including 589,000 tonnes of commercial imports, mainly from neighbouring Malawi and Zambia, and 250,000 tonnes of food aid.

On top of floods and drought, farmers have suffered from shortages of key inputs, including fertilizer, seed, fuel and tillage power this season, the agency said.

"With dwindling foreign exchange reserves and shrinking purchasing power, another year of low cereal production would severely affect the food security condition for a significant part of the population unless substantial assistance is provided," FAO said.


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