Zimbabwe Food Security Update, February 2008



Since the imposition of price controls last year, supplies of staple cereals have remained erratic and inadequate on most formal markets throughout the country. A few commodities such as milk and bread have become more available in January 2008, though the selling prices are unaffordable to most poor households.

Figure 1. Estimated current food security conditions through March 2008

Source: FEWS NET

Food security in urban areas remains critical given the shortages and erratic supplies of basic commodities on the formal market and inadequate humanitarian support in these areas.

Both the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) and humanitarian agencies have performed to satisfaction in moving cereals into the country. The outstanding national cereal deficit for the current marketing year (278,000 MT) is likely to be met.

WFP and C-SAFE have continued supporting vulnerable households in grain deficit rural areas. In December 2007, the humanitarian agencies scaled up their programs covering over 3.8 million people, and increased to 4.1 million in January 2008, over 60 percent of the population in those districts receiving food aid.

The adverse impact of heavy rainfall on this season's maize crop is evident throughout the country, including the country's major maize production areas. These poor crop conditions have also been worsened by the absence of top dressing fertilizer, and crops throughout the country are showing signs of nitrogen deficiency. Overall, yields for all crops are likely to be lower this season compared to those achieved last season. According to the Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, last season's maize harvest left a deficit of about 891,000 MT. While the total area planted to major crops, including maize, is higher this agricultural season than the area planted to same crops same time last year, it most likely that current season will leave a higher national maize deficit.

Almost all parts of the country received cumulative rainfall amounts well above their long term average for the period from September to December. Rainfall became heavier and more frequent from mid November 2007. Overall, December 2007 was the wettest December ever in the recorded history of Zimbabwe.

Since the beginning of the rainy season, more than 15,000 people have been affected by floods. These floods have damaged roads, washed away bridges, destroyed houses, crops and livestock. Farmers in some districts throughout the country are experiencing water logging problems, with fields submerged in water. This situation is likely to intensify as more heavy rains are expected in the remaining part of the season.