ZIMBABWE* (10 February)
Planting of main crops this agricultural season was delayed due to a sketchy start of the rainfall. Most areas received good precipitation in December and later part of January. However, the cumulative rainfall in the country has been below normal. Judging from the latest satellite images, below normal vegetative/crop growth throughout the country is anticipated, except for some northern districts where improved precipitation was beneficial. Farmers were also reported to have faced fertilizer, fuel, spare parts and draught power shortages.
Reportedly, maize purchases by the government’s Grain Marketing Board (GMB) have been significantly lower than expected. As stated by the FEWSNET the parallel market prices of maize at mid-December 2004 varied from Z$830/kg in surplus areas (mostly in the north-central part of the country) to Z$2 225/kg in peripheral deficit areas. These prices have risen from the average of Z$280 to Z$560 per kg during post-harvest period in April. Thus, the continuing hyper inflation, estimated at an annual rate of 149 percent in November 2004 (although steadily declined from about 600 percent at the beginning of 2004) combined with extremely high levels of unemployment, greatly limit access to food for the most vulnerable population groups. According to the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) about 2.3 million people in rural areas alone are not able to cover their food needs, and likely as many in the urban areas.