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Zimbabwe Minister Denies Excluding United Nations From Food Assessment

UN news agency IRIN quoted Agriculture Minister Joseph Made as saying crop and food assessment is a matter of national security that should be treated with 'utmost caution and exclusivity'

Controversy has sprung up over reported comments by Zimbabwean Agriculture Minister Joseph Made saying he would bar United Nations agencies from joining in food and crop assessment surveys in the country, citing national security issues.

The UN news agency IRIN quoted Made as saying that the assessment of crops and food is a matter of national security that should be treated with “utmost caution and exclusivity.” The agency quoted Made as accusing UN agencies of circulating negative information about the country, adding, “We don’t want to have politics in food.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, among others, normally participate in Zimbabwe’s crop and food surveys.

An estimated 1.7 million Zimbabweans will need food aid through the April maize harvest, but the numbers could rise due to a period of drought near the end of the season.

Reached by VOA, officials at the FAO in Harare declined to comment on issues related to food and crops, saying that Harare had carried out its survey without them.

Made told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the IRIN report misquoted him. He said Harare would work with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations as long as they stay out of Zimbabwean politics.

Moses Jiri, a member of Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, says his panel will not allow made to play politics with food at a critical time.

Non-governmental organizations and agricultural experts painted a grim picture of food availability in many parts of Zimbabwe following a dry spell in February in combination with rising food prices that exclude many from the marketplace.

For a closer look at the current food picture in Zimbabwe, reporter Patience Rusere turned to Dadirai Chikwengo, chairwoman of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and Precious Shumba, coordinator of the Harare Residents Trust, for their perspective on the national food situation.

Chikwengo, just back from a field trip to the dry province of Matebeleland North, said crops have wilted and food aid is likely to be needed in that area as in others.