FEWS Zimbabwe Monthly Food Security Update 31 Mar 2003



The cereal gap for the 2003/04 consumption year in Zimbabwe is forecast to be 561,180 MT, much reduced from the Figure just over 1,400,000MT last year.

Zimbabwe finished the 2002/03 consumption year with an overall cereal deficit of approximately 300,000MT.

Urban areas and newly resettled areas continue to be excluded from large-scale food aid programs despite evidence of a deteriorating food security situation in these areas.

The expansion of food aid programmes in communal areas has helped stabilize the food supply situation in these localities.

The food security situation in some isolated rural parts of the northern provinces is improving due to increased food aid assistance from the humanitarian community and early consumption of the current season's produce. However, the food security situation continues to worsen in most rural areas in the southern districts.

Although Grain Marketing Board (GMB) imports account for almost three times the volume of food aid imports, GMB food is hardly visible in the communal areas. Food aid is catering for up to 70 percent of the rural population while GMB food supplies have stopped altogether in most rural areas.

The year on year inflation rate for the month of February 2003 gained 12.8 percentage points on the January rate to reach a record high of 220.9 percent. Food inflation accounts for 79 percent of this latest increase.

1Current Food Security Situation

1.1 Diminishing Food Security Crisis

Food availability and access in the communal and old resettlement areas of Zimbabwe have improved significantly following a 10 to 30 percent increase in the number of beneficiaries receiving food aid in these areas. In some parts of Masvingo, Manicaland and the Mashonaland provinces the meagre harvests from early planted cereal, groundnuts, cowpeas, pumpkins and squash are complementing food aid in a marked way, thereby further improving food availability. Water melons are playing an important role in providing food and cash income to households in the southern districts, particularly Nkayi and Lupane Districts in Matebeleland Province. Some companies, such as the mining corporations in Mashava and Zvishavane, are procuring food baskets for their employees at affordable prices. The urban food aid program piloted by WFP and Help German in Bulawayo and Harare is benefiting under-nourished children under five. The pilot started in March 2003.

1.2 Continuing Food Security Crisis

A majority of the population in urban and the new resettlement areas continues to be excluded from comprehensive food assistance, depending instead on the very erratic and inadequate GMB supplies and the parallel market with its exorbitant maize prices (Z$222 to Z$278/kg. In addition to this group is the communal area population excluded from food aid because of failing to fit the criteria for receiving food aid. These include a population of rural professionals such as teachers, extension agents and households with a regular source of income above ZW$7000 per month. The food security problem facing this population is both an access and availability problem, but more an availability one since the staple cereal is often not to be found in local markets. The available food substitutes - rice, pastas and Irish potatoes - are too expensive for the majority of households excluded from food aid. In light of the ever declining economy, riddled with run-away inflation, massive unemployment, and foreign currency and fuel shortages, increasing numbers of people are going to face food security problems.

1.3 Emerging Food Security Crisis

The current food aid programs have helped to contain the food security crisis in Zimbabwe and should be continued throughout the consumption year that starts on 1st April 2003. Current food assistance programs have to be complemented with innovative ways of improving staple cereal availability, particularly in the urban areas.

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