Zimbabwe

FEWS Zimbabwe Food Security Update: 22 Aug 2001

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This Update covers the period July 20 - August 20, 2001

Summary

  • Official maize stock levels at the national level were estimated at 259,000 MT at mid-August, a decrease from about 324,000 MT at the end of June. Maize sales from official stocks doubled from an average of 25,000 MT in June and July to about 50,000 MT by mid-August. Grain availability is becoming a problem in some of the remote areas of the country.
  • A new policy, or "instrument," stipulates that maize, wheat, and products are controlled commodities and that only the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) can buy and sell maize and wheat. Despite GMB’s new monopoly, maize deliveries to GMB have not increased significantly compared with previous years and the average. These low deliveries could be due to the low producer price of maize offered by the GMB, the low volumes available for sale in the market, and strong demand for maize at higher prices on local markets.
  • To attract early wheat deliveries and build stock levels, the GMB needs to offer farmers an attractive price over Z$24,000 per MT so that farmers can break even on their production costs.
  • Rural farming households that have exhausted their harvests now rely on purchases from other farmers or the GMB for their maize. To facilitate access to maize by poor farming households, GMB should sell maize in 25-kg packs in areas where farmers cannot afford 50-kg bags. NGOs and the government should start food-for-work programs in these areas as some households are counting on such programs to supplement their incomes and improve their food security.
  • Prices of basic commodities and services in Harare continued to increase following the fuel price increase of 70 percent in June. Hardest hit by the price increase are the richer households whose expenditure basket costs increased by more than 30 percent as prices of most other foods, transport, and other commodities increased. The cost of the expenditure basket of the poorest households increased at a lower rate, but its impact has been greater in absolute terms. Many of these poorer households have already stopped spending on certain goods and services and, unlike the richer households, have little room for cutting back more.

1. Current Food-Security Conditions

1.1. Crop Conditions

The area planted to winter wheat has increased in the small-scale irrigation schemes (areas) and in the smallholder sector. In all, farmers planted 52,000 hectares in wheat. Most wheat is at the flowering stage and doing well, except for isolated incidents where the crop was destroyed in Mashonaland West Province during disturbances in some of the commercial farming areas. About 275,000 MT of wheat are expected to be harvested in October 2001, provided that production and harvesting are not disrupted in the commercial farming sector. Maize planting in most of the small-scale irrigation schemes has started and the crop will be harvested green or as mature grain starting from November 2001. Maize from the small-scale irrigation schemes will not make up for the current maize deficit of nearly 155,000 MT (without the SGR) as normally only about 20,000 MT of irrigated maize are produced.

1.2. Livestock and Vegetation Conditions

Pastures are generally good in all the farming sectors. However, large tracts of pastures have been destroyed by veld fires in the commercial farming areas and these fires seem to be continuing. In a recent visit to the southern districts of the country, outside the main commercial areas, FEWS NET observed numerous veld fires along the highways, as well as people cutting down trees and selling firewood along some sections of the Masvingo to Mvuma highway.

Light and widespread rainfall received in early August has regenerated grass, preventing potentially high soil erosion when the rainy season starts in November. However, the continued veld fires will expose some of the land to erosion at the start of the rainy season. The satellite image showing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for first dekad (10-day period) of August indicates that the vegetation cover is equal to or better than average in most parts of the country. This improvement could be due to July and August rainfall, which has resulted in flash vegetation growth, especially from the burnt areas (Figure 1). There is adequate grazing for livestock in most of the districts in the country.

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