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Conflicting Reports On Zimbabwe's Harvest, Food Security Outlook

The World Food Program has reported that Zimbabwe was the only country among 10 Southern African nations that did not present data on food security at an assessment conference late last month in Johannesburg.

A WFP statement said Harare was not ready to present food data. Yet the country's Central Statistical Office has informed the Southern African development community that the cereal harvest in the current market year is some 1.7 million tons.

However, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has projected a cereal harvest of at most some 1.2 million tons, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated Zimbabwe's maize output at just 900,000 tons.

The secrecy which has enveloped Zimbabwe food production data deepened earlier this year when Agriculture Minister Joseph Made warned foreign organizations against doing crop assessments, calling them illegal.

The WFP has said it would need US$85.5 million to feed some 3 million people in the region. But it has warned that the number could surge when the “lean spell," also known as the "hunger season," begins as harvested crops are consumed.

WFP Executive Director James Morris said AIDS has made matters worse in Southern Africa, leaving those with symptoms of the disease too sick to work in the fields and diverting household disposable income to be spent on medicines.

For another view on the uncertain outlook for Zimbabwean food security, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to senior political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis group in Pretoria, South Africa.

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