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Seeing Shortfall, World Food Program Steps Up Aid to Zimbabwe

The World Food Programme has estimated that some 1.8 million Zimbabweans may need food assistance between now and April of next year, when the next harvest will replenish larders, and said it will increase its provision of food aid to the country.

The Zimbabwean government is reported to have acknowledged that about 1.4 million people in rural areas will need food assistance. News site ZimOnline said the country's Vulnerability Assessment Committee sees a shortfall of 91,000 tonnes of cereals.

Economic Development Minister Rugare Gumbo told parliament recently that Harare has been trying to raise Z$34 million from alternative sources such as pension funds for the purchase of maize and soya beans to fill the food-output gap.

The impending food crisis could be exacerbated by the devastation of winter wheat crops in some areas by quelea birds. Some 150 million birds have been sighted in the Lower Veld of Manicaland and in Matebeleland South with harvest approaching.

It is estimated that the quelea birds destroyed half the wheat crop last year.

From Johannesburg, World Food Program spokesman Mike Huggins gave reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe more on WFP aid plans.

Three ministers told parliament Wednesday there might be food shortages next year. Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and Water and Infrastructure Development Minister Munacho Mutezo acknowledged that essential agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and fuel for tillage are not in place though the planting season is only weeks away.

State Security minister Didymus Mutasa, responsible for food security as well as land reform, said newly settled farmers are having trouble borrowing money because they lack collateral to offer bank lenders. Mutasa also took a swipe at officials, accusing them of looting agriculture equipment then failing to make use of it.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...