Rome, 1 June 2001 -- 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 harvest, and assess food import requirements. Three teams comprising of a staff member from FAO/GIEWS, two international consultants and two national consultants from FAO along with two staff members (one international and one local) from WFP visited 12 selected districts from all five agro-ecological zones in the country covering all eight provinces. Specialists from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement (MLARR) assisted these teams. USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) Network joined one of the teams.
Key findings of the report were:
Cereal production for the current marketing year (Apr-01 to Mar-02) is forecast at about 1.82 million tonnes, 24 percent down from last year, reflecting reduced plantings and a drop in yields.
The large scale commercial sector experienced a decline of about 30 percent in area planted under all crops during the main season primarily due to the disruptions caused by land acquisition activities. Maize was especially affected as it showed a decline of 54 percent in area planted. An additional reason for maize area reduction was its reduced profitability relative to other crops.
The reduction in maize area (8 percent) and production (12 percent) in the communal sector is largely due to payment delays for the previous year maize crop by the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB). High annual inflation (over 50 percent) and the rising costs of inputs further encouraged a switch from maize to cash crops such as soybeans, sunflower, groundnut and paprika.
Cereal import requirements for marketing year 2001/02 are estimated at 579 000 tonnes, of which 132 000 tonnes of wheat and rice is anticipated to be covered by commercial imports, leaving a balance of 447 000 tonnes of maize, which will need to be covered by a draw-down on stocks or, preferably, through commercial imports. Bilateral programme food aid to meet part of the import requirement may be considered as an option.
Emerging food insecurity problems in the country are primarily due to diminishing purchasing power. The urban poor and many households in food deficit southern and eastern areas of the country are particularly vulnerable to food shortages and would need to be targeted for assistance.
The ongoing land redistribution programme poses a number of complex problems. Appropriate measures need to be taken to minimise its negative impact on agricultural productivity and food production.
The full FAO/WFP report is available on the FAO web site at this URL: <http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/faoinfo/economic/giews/english/alertes/sptoc.htm>
For additional information, or to arrange an interview, contact: John Riddle, FAO Media Relations at: +39 06 5705-3259, E-mail: email@example.com , or Francis Mwanza, WFP Information Officer, at: +39 06 6513 2623, E-mail: Francis.Mwanza@wfp.org