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Hit by Poor Rainfall, Zimbabwe Faces 2012 Major Food Deficit

Zimbabwe faces a one million tonne maize deficit due to drought, with nearly half of the national crop coming up for harvest this month failing due to poor rains.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told the state media Friday that nearly 45 percent of the maize crop that was planted this farming season is a complete write-off.

The country needs at least 2,2 million tonnes of maize to feed itself annually but Made said Harare currently has only 400,000 tonnes of maize stocks, which must be complemented by imports to prevent hunger.

In a major role reversal, Harare, which used to be southern Africa's bread basket, has been buying most of its maize grain staple from Zambia to augment available stocks.

Donor organizations say they are re-assessing their assistance to Zimbabwe to see how they can cope with the shortfall in both crop and funding. Most of Zimbabwe food shortages followed the country's controversial land reform program that saw President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party taking land from white commercial farmers.

Last year the United Nations said it would raise nearly $200 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe with half going to food security for more than 1.4 million people. But a funding shortfall affected the donor groups' efforts to assist.

Acting officer-in-charge Vincent Omuga with the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Coordination says donors have had to expand the hunger season to end of April to ensure they help the needy.

He told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo the food crisis is dire as most programs have already halved their supplies.

"It has been a problem because in December main distributors of food in the country, including WFP, had to reduce their ration by half, because they did not have sufficient funds," said Omuga. "This was further more complicated by the extension of the hunger season to April."

Director Rashid Mahiya with Heal Zimbabwe blames the country’s politicians for the looming food crisis.

He said now that there is a crisis, food aid should be protected from politicians seeking to score cheap political points by abusing the needy. ZANU-PF has in the past been blamed for giving food aid to party card holders only, a thing activists are warning against.

Heal Zimbabwe says areas worst affected by the drought include Muzarabani, Guruve, Buhera, Zaka, Mount Darwin, Mutoko and most districts in the Matebeleland provinces.

"People that have control are people that have been affiliated with one political party, it is not proper that in Zimbabwe you benefit by producing a political party card," said Mahiya.