The food crisis in Zimbabwe is set to worsen after the World Food Programme (WFP) conceded that it is struggling to raise enough funds needed to feed about 2.2 million Zimbabweans who need assistance in the hunger season that stretches from December to April.
The WFP says Zimbabwe's food security assessment for the 2013/2014 consumption year is the worst since 2009 with a quarter of people living in the rural areas requiring urgent food assistance.
In an exclusive interview with VOA acting WFP country director Abdur Rahim Siddiqui says that the food situation in Zimbabwe crisis is set to worsen after his organization failed to meet its fund raising targets.
WFP says they are launching another appeal to assist the needy in Zimbabwe.
Director of Christian Care, Reverend Stanlus Chatikobo said his organization which is one of the WFP’s implementation partners in Zimbabwe has reduced its rations due to shortages.
Siddiqui said the growing of cash crops such as tobacco has contributed to the shortage of the staple maize or corn.
But Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said there is nothing wrong with growing grains.
The cash-strapped Zimbabwe government which is being complimented by the WFP has been struggling to import food from neighbouring countries that have a bumper harvest. Despite the cash crisis President Robert Mugabe and his cabinet have assured the nation that no one will starve.
The government has started importing 150,000 metric tonnes of white corn or maize from South Africa to try and guarantee food crisis reserves.
But it never rains for Zimbabwe. According to South Africa’s Department of Agriculture Crop Estimates Committee figures, the country’s maize (corn) harvest declined by 20 percent from the previous year.
A trader at commodity trader BVG Private Limited, Brink van Wyk said prices can easily sky rocket and this will have an impact on Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has so far received about 300 tonnes from its neighbor, which is the continent’s biggest producer of the grain that’s also known as maize, said Zimbabwean Deputy Agriculture Minister David Marapira.
Besides the South African imports, Harare has so far received an additional 10,000 tonnes from the expected 150,000 tons of corn from Zambia. But Lusaka and Harare government sources told VOA that Zambia is demanding cash upfront and this has scuttled the plans to import the grains. But Marapira dismissed the claim.
Zimbabwe for years has also grappled with the alleged politicisation of food.
Spokesman Douglas Mwonzora of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said his party supporters are being denied food.
But Agriculture Deputy Minister Marapira laughed it off calling it political propaganda.
The country’s corn production fell in 2013 to 800,000 tons while prices surged 61 percent, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee said in September.
Zimbabwe needs more than 2 million tonnes of maize every year and an additional 500,000 as strategic reserves.
Agriculture in the nation, once a major corn exporter in the region, was decimated by violent state-backed land invasions starting in 2000 that dispossessed white commercial farmers of about 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres).
Ironically, the nation is importing corn which is now being grown in neighboring countries by the same farmers that it dispossessed.
The number of people in need of cereals, vegetable oil and pulses doubled in two years to 2.2 million, or a quarter of the rural population, according to the government survey of 10,797 households, which was supported by international aid agencies including the United Nations and World Food Programme.
Interview With Abdur Rahim Siddiqui