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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

9 April 2008

Zimbabwe 2007/08 Agricultural Season Update

Unfavourable prospects for the main 2008 harvest

The 2007/08 agricultural season is approaching harvest time (May-June) in Zimbabwe. Although effective planting rains started later than usual in November, excessive precipitation persisted during December and January throughout the country causing serious flooding in some low lying areas - with the worst affected districts being Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central and Chipinge in Manicaland. Since February, however, rains have tapered-off causing extreme dry weather conditions lasting for about 4 dekads in several provinces of the country (see Figure 1 for the estimated decadal rainfall graphs from dekad 1 of October 2007 to dekad 3 of March 2008). These long dry spells are likely to have serious damaging effects on crop growth and yields for the main season crops. Furthermore, according to the Ministry of Agriculture (AGRITEX) only 14 percent of the maize crop was planted by the end of November. This “early” planted crop is expected to produce fair yields, however, late planted crops (the majority of maize plantings) will be affected by the dry spells. Worst affected provinces include Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland East and Matebeleland South. As can be seen from rainfall distribution, even in the remaining provinces, the second half of the season from early February on has been much below average.

In addition to weather-related difficulties, farmers have faced shortages and high prices for key inputs, including fertilizer, seed, fuel, and tillage power. Fertilizer in particular has been in short supply as the country produced or sourced about 7 percent of the required basal applications and about 10 percent of the top dressing applications. Farmers also suffered flood related damages in several districts earlier in the season.

Food security outlook

The current food security situation in Zimbabwe is critical, primarily due to the lack of access to food, as the country passes through the peak of the hunger season prior to the new harvest later this month. Of the estimated 1.03 million tonnes of cereal import requirement for marketing year April 2007/March 2008, so far (as of late March ) some 839 000 tonnes, or about 81 percent of the total, requirement, have reportedly been imported. This includes 589 000 tonnes of commercial deliveries, mainly from neighbouring Malawi and Zambia, and 250 000 tonnes of food aid. However, with the world’s highest annual rate of inflation at 100 580 percent in December 2007 (the official CSO estimate), and rising food prices, food security for about one-third of the vulnerable people keeps worsening. With dwindling foreign exchange reserves and shrinking purchasing power, another year of low cereal production would severely affect the food security condition for a significant part of the population unless substantial assistance is provided.

Figure 1: Zimbabwe – dekadal and cumulative estimated rainfall by province, from October 2007 dekad 1 to March 2008 dekad 3 as compared to the previous season and to the average of 1996/7 to 2006/7 (mm)


(Legends and axis labels shown in panel 1 apply to all panels)