ZIMBABWE* (11 February)
Moderate to heavy showers were received in November and early December over the northern and central areas of the country. Planting in southern districts began in late November while it was reported to be at an advance stage elsewhere with the early planted crops at late vegetative to flowering stages. Widespread rains have continued to benefit crops across most parts of the country. The current rains have especially improved the situation in the southern half of the country where dry conditions had persisted, and some planting and replanting was reported in January. In general, the late arrival of rains, coupled with repeated drought warning, resulted in a reduction of planting compared to 1997.
More rains are needed in February and March for crops to reach maturity, particularly in southern areas. A prolonged dry spell or an early end of rains in February could lead to an overall loss of some 10 to 20 percent of harvest compared to the 1997 level. Meanwhile, the food supply situation is relatively tight. Following the recent food riot in the capital, the Government is striving to reduce the price of maize and has released part of the strategic Grain Reserve on to the market. For the upcoming marketing year, there may be less carryover stock available to help cushion the impact of a drop in output, and the country may become a net importer. Targeted assistance may also be required for vulnerable population groups in regions of the south that will have a poor harvests as a result of erratic rainfall.