FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages 02/01 - ZIMBABWE* (5 February)

ZIMBABWE* (5 February)

Prospects for the 2001 foodcrops, to be harvested from April, have deteriorated following dry weather in the last two dekads of January and, in general, erratic rains since the beginning of the season. Rains in early February may have arrived too late to prevent reductions in yields of maize and other foodcrops. In the worst affected southern areas, below average precipitation since mid-November has resulted in significant reductions in plantings and yields. Plantings in most districts are estimated to be less than 50 percent of normal levels and a poor harvest is anticipated. Most affected districts are Beitbridge, Matobo and Umzingwane in Matebeleland South Province; Umguza in Matebeleland North Province; Guruve in Mashonaland Central Province; Chiredzi in Masvingo Province; and Shurugwi in Midlands Province. In the main maize growing areas of the north and centre, latest estimates point to a decline in the area planted to maize of 26 percent, with sowings in the large-scale commercial farming sector estimated to be 50 percent lower as a result of civil disturbances. Provisional forecasts point to a maize crop as low as 1.2 million tonnes, or 41 percent below last year's level, but the final outcome will depend on the rains in the main growing areas in the next two months. However, should this low maize production forecast materialize, import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 will increase sharply to around 500 000 tonnes, at a time when the country faces severe foreign exchange shortages.

The current overall food supply position remains satisfactory reflecting the good maize crop of last year and large carryover stocks. However, the situation is difficult for poor urban households and in some communal areas that rely on purchased maize. Prices of maize and other basic food have increased sharply in the past month due to high levels of inflation, fuel shortages and continued devaluation of the national currency.

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