FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages 3/01 - Zimbabwe

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited Zimbabwe from 25 April to 11 May 2001 to estimate the production of the main season cereal and pulse crops, forecast the 2001/02 winter season production and assess food import requirements.
The Mission found that similar to the pattern of the previous year, the 2000/01 rainy season was generally favourable for the northern provinces of the country which normally produce nearly 70 percent of the national cereal harvest. But, rains were late and below normal in the southern and eastern areas of the country. There was a dry spell during January in most parts of the country followed by widespread incessant rains in February and March, which resulted in localised flooding.

The area under grain crops in the 2000/01 main season decreased by 15 percent compared to the previous year. The area planted to maize in the large scale commercial farming sector was reduced by more than half primarily due to land acquisition activities. The smallholder sector, including the resettled areas did not make up for this reduction in maize plantings. Some of the decrease in total maize area was compensated by an increase in the area under soybeans, groundnuts, sunflower and paprika.

The Mission estimated a national cereal harvest of 1.57 million tonnes in the 2000/01 main cropping season, compared to 2.15 million tonnes in 1999/00, a reduction of 27 percent. Maize production, which accounts for over 90 percent of the total grain production, was estimated at 1.47 million tonnes.

Livestock condition was generally good in the large-scale commercial sector while in the smallholder sector it ranged from fair to good. However, animal deaths due to tick borne diseases were reported in some communal areas. Pastures and water availability conditions were generally good in most provinces.

Based on the forecast production, the import requirement is estimated at 579 000 tonnes. Given the substantial decline in gold production and the tobacco harvest, and much of the expected foreign currency earnings being pre-committed for fuel, other energy imports and the international debt servicing, Government's ability to import maize is extremely limited. Even if the wheat and rice deficit of 132 000 tonnes were to be met by commercial imports by private traders primarily by raising foreign currency in the parallel market, there remains a net deficit of about 447 000 tonnes of maize to be covered by imports or by drawing down on stocks. Given the current economic conditions and food insecurity in several parts of the country, a major draw down of stocks may not be advisable. The country needs to hold adequate cereal stocks to maintain stable and adequate supply necessary to prevent any price escalations and to keep prices at affordable levels for both rural and urban populations.

Free food aid distribution is not appropriate. Bilateral programme food aid may be considered as an option to help ensure an adequate grain supply at affordable prices in the deficit areas, both rural and urban.