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Food shortages begin to bite

Staff Writer

FOOD security is declining in traditionally dry Masvingo, the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces and Zimbabwe will not benefit from food handouts in the lean months from January to March this y

ear, the World Food Programme (WFP) has said.

In its first report for 2005 titled the WFP Emergency Report, the UN food agency said food security was declining in most districts of Zimbabwe but the worst affected areas are Masvingo and Matabeleland North and South provinces.

“As the lean season begins, increasing levels of food insecurity are apparent. Food security is declining in most of the districts, particularly in those in the traditionally dry Masvingo and Matabeleland provinces in the south of the country,” reads the report.

The WFP said the increasing costs of food were contributing to food insecurity.

“A massive price increase of up to 250% in the Masvingo urban market has occurred since the post-harvest low point and household food purchases are constrained by the increasing food prices and lack of income, with a wage well below what is needed to purchase a day’s cereal requirement,” the report says.

The WFP was ordered by the Zimbabwean government to cease all food handouts amidst claims that the country had a bumper harvest last season.

Press reports last week indicated that maize meal, the country’s staple food, was in short supply throughout the country.

Government said last year that the country would not need any food aid claiming it was anticipating a bumper harvest of 2,4 million tonnes of maize. President Robert Mugabe repeated the same claims in an interview with Britain’s Sky News, saying donors should take their food to hungrier places.

However, the WFP has announced that it will continue with targeted feeding of vulnerable groups such as the elderly and HIV/Aids victims.

In December, according to the report, the WFP provided about 25 000 tonnes of food to over 1,6 million vulnerable people in 33 of Zimbabwe’s 57 districts in what it described as a “one-off” distribution.

Zimbabwe is not included in a list of countries named in the report to benefit from the its feeding programme.

Meanwhile, the Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) says the cost of living in urban areas has increased steadily over 2004 and that the majority of urban households are struggling to meet requirements.

“High inflation and the Grain Marketing Board monopoly over marketing maize are exacerbating the situation,” said Fewsnet.

Fewsnet said the cost of food and other non-food items increased by over 92% last year while wages have failed to keep up.

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