Zimbabwe is on track to harvest nearly 1.9 million tonnes of cereals this year, 100,000 tonnes over the annual national requirement of 1.8 million tonnes, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said in a report presented to the Cabinet this week.
Made said the assessment pointed to a total maize yield of 1.45 million tonnes, a gain of 9 percent over 2010 results. He said 270,000 tonnes have already been harvested.
The rest of the cereal crop, or some 450,000 tonnes, will come from small grains.
The minister's report closely followed President Robert Mugabe’s acknowledgment on a speech on Monday, Independence Day, that food shortages loom due to drought.
Agronomist Thomas Nherera told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he agrees with the ministry's assessment. But he said that achieving the levels in the forecast depended on success among farmers who planted small grains after maize crops failed.
Elsewhere, responding to consumer complaints, the government said it will slash water prices across the country, overriding prices set by local governments. The government ordered fixed water charges in high-density areas to be reduced to US5.00 a month and to US11.00 dollars in low-density areas. Rates per cubic meter were also cut.
Residents can now expect to pay 20 US cents per cubic meter for the first 20; from 21 to 50 cubic meters the unit cost is 60 cents. Those who consume between 51 and 100 cubic meters a month will pay US$1.00 per cubic meter to discourage overuse.
Residents deprived of water for 30 consecutive days can contest payment for the period.
The imposition of uniform water rates by the government comes amid wrangles between city councils and groups representing consumers who have encouraged households to refuse to pay water bills that they say are based on incorrect estimates.
Harare Residents Trust Coordinator Precious Shumba told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that his group welcomes the fixed charge plan. But he emphasized that billing systems must be fixed, noting that meter systems in many areas are not functioning.