Paul NyakazeyaAN estimated 2,2 million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid, the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet), an early warning system that monitors food security around the world, said in its latest report.
However, government has dismissed the report, with Agriculture minister Joseph Made suggesting that the Fewsnet projections do not portray the “correct” situation on the ground.
“Their (Fewsnet) estimates are wrong. Such figures are not readily available yet,” Made said.
“We are waiting for the first crop assessment that will give us the amount of hectarage planted not yields, basing on the quantities needed in the country and then the food position can be interpreted,” Made said.
The minister said the USAid-funded Fewsnet was not “transparent and sincere” when dealing with Zimbabwe and as such government ignores their projections.
“Why should they care about Zimbabwe when they imposed sanctions that are hurting our people?,” Made said.
“In any case they should leave us alone and relocate to Australia where they are wanted because of the calamity that is there,” Made said.
Some agriculture experts, however, said Fewsnet’s projections portrayed were “almost close to the ground” as they deploy experts in all provinces to record the correct situation on the ground.
The annual national food requirement is about 1,7 million tonnes, but only around 1,35 million tonnes was harvested in 2009/10.
The 1,8 million hectares planted for maize in 2009/10 represented a 20% increase from the previous year, but the greater amount of land under cultivation was not mirrored in the harvest, which only increased 7% from the previous year.
Zimbabwe’s combined cereal production in the 2009/10 season was an estimated 1,52 million metric tonnes.
Made said the “correct” assessment of Zimbabwe’s food situation “will come from assessments done by Zimbabweans, but I cannot give you a figure as of now. We are busy ensuring that our farmers have inputs to improve crop yields this year.
“It would be interesting to know food projections in America against freezing temperatures and climate change.”
In June last year Fewsnet downgraded Zimbabwe’s food security situation, revising downwards the number of months covered by the 2009/10 harvest from seven to four.
“This is a shift from the April outlook estimate of seven-plus months of cereal sufficiency for the consumption year based on information from the crop and livestock assessment conducted by the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development ministry,” Fewsnet said.
It said Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces had the least cereal supply, ranging from one-and-half months to less than three months.
This was due to a mid-season dry spell which adversely affected crop production in the two provinces.
The Matabeleland North cereal supply was recorded as being high due to the success of small grains in the area.
Fewsnet said external assistance was urgently needed in food-deficit areas such as Masvingo, Matabeleland South and parts of Manicaland provinces as well as Mashonaland East’s Mudzi district.