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Lower Growth Forecast for Zimbabwe as Drought Ravages Crop Yields - Finance Minister

Southern Africa Drought and Hunger
Southern Africa Drought and Hunger

By Nyasha Chingono

HARARE, July 10 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has revised its economic growth forecast downwards as southern Africa's worst drought in decades ravages crop yields, its finance minister told Reuters on Wednesday, but a bounceback in growth is likely in 2025.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said economic growth is forecast at 2% for 2024, down from 3.5% forecast in November, due to an El Niño-induced drought which has led to widespread crop failure.

El Niño is a natural climate phenomenon in which surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific become unusually warm, causing changes in global weather patterns.

Zimbabwe is among the hardest hit by drought in the region, impacting crop yields. Neighbors Zambia and Malawi have declared states of disaster as a result of the drought.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund also said it expected Zimbabwe's growth to fall to 2%, down from 5.3% last year.

"We are all downgrading our growth targets for 2024 because of deeper than expected impact on our agriculture, but next year is brighter," Ncube said.

Growth is expected to recover to above 5% in 2025, he added.

In May, the Zimbabwean government forecasted that staple maize production will drop 72% in the 2023/24 season.

Ncube said the drought had affected agriculture output and the country expects to import 1.4 million metric tonnes of grain.

To ease hunger across the country, Zimbabwe received around $32 million drought insurance last week from an African Union agency. Government has also appealed to international donors to assist with food aid.

Ncube will give the mid-term budget review later this month.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono, Editing by Tannur Anders and Angus MacSwan)