FEWS Zimbabwe Food Security Emergency 15 Nov 2004 - Extreme food insecurity

Access to food continues to be the biggest food security challenge in 2004/05.

In April 2004 the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) estimated that about 2.2 million rural people would need food assistance between August and November 2004 due to a combination of factors, including inadequate household crop production, and shrinking income options. This estimate was made on the assumption that grain would be available from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at Z$471/kg. However, GMB maize grain is now selling for at least Z$720/kg, and it is in short supply. Where GMB maize is not available, many households are forced to turn to the parallel markets to buy maize, where it sells for more than Z$1,000. Given much higher maize prices and no evidence of commensurate increases in rural incomes, the rural population in need of food assistance must now be higher than that originally estimated by the ZimVAC. In addition, significant general price increases continue to limit the ability of poor urban households to buy the food they need. These households make up close to 70 percent of Zimbabwe's urban population.

Maize price increase threatens household food security in grain deficit areas

Maize grain prices are normally expected to start increasing between December and January, but they started going up soon after the harvest in May/June 2004 in both the grain deficit and the grain surplus areas. The grain surplus areas in the north central part of the country saw maize prices rise from Z$8,000/bucket(18kg) in April and May to between Z$10,000 and Z$15,000/bucket in October. Maize prices in the grain deficit areas were around Z$15,000/bucket after the harvest and had gone up to over Z$20,000/bucket by the end of October 2004.

Although cattle and goat prices in the majority of the grain deficit rural areas have risen by over 100 percent since April 2004, not more than 60 percent of households in these areas have sufficient animals to enable them to take advantage of these higher prices.

Parallel Market Maize Grain Prices (Z$/18kg) for Last Week of October 2004 in Selected Markets


The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) estimates that in August 2004 a poor urban family of six required about Z$1,400,078 to purchase basic commodities and other essential services. The cost of the basket of basic goods and services for the poor urban household went up by 6.6 percent in September to Z$1,494,700. Minimum monthly wages for commercial employees, pegged at Z$ 437,500 in September 2004, only cover about 29 percent of the CCZ total basket. Household income has been further stretched by the demands of the agricultural season as most urban households are procuring inputs for their urban plots or for sending to relatives in rural areas.

Zimbabwe Crisis Timeline


  • The humanitarian agencies with cereals left over when general feeding stopped soon after the harvest in April should continue dialogue with the Government to complement their food assistance program with general feeding to populations identified by the ZimVAC to be in need of food assistance.

  • NGOs and the government should embark on livelihoods recovery programs better informed by livelihoods assessments such as the just released Zimbabwe VAC assessments and the soon to be published Poverty Assessment Study.

  • Targeted food aid should continue throughout the country for poor socio-economic groups. Special attention is required for the most food insecure districts of Manicaland and Matebeleland South Provinces.

  • Rigorous monitoring of the food security situation in highly food insecure areas such as the districts of Masvingo, the Matebelelands, the south of Manicaland and Zambezi Valley, should be stepped up given the threat of famine in these areas.