Zimbabwe lacks funds to transport food aid: minister


Zimbabwe does not have the money to transport food aid to areas experiencing acute shortages, said Agriculture Minister Joseph Made.

The country wants to send its entire 270,000 tonnes of grain reserves to provinces that are worst hit by drought and where 1.7 million people need aid, but the Grain Marketing Board had no money to do so he told the state-owned Herald newspaper.
“The directive was given by cabinet two weeks ago,” Made was quoted as saying. Zimbabwe’s drought has left six of its 10 provinces facing serious food shortages, the Herald said.

The southern African country, once a regional bread basket, has failed to feed itself since 2000, following President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned commercial farms to resettle landless blacks, leading to sharp falls in production, Reuters reports.

Made told Reuters last Thursday that the government is carrying out a crop assessment programme but would not discuss the extent of the drought.

Combined estimates by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme said about 1.7 million people out of its population of 12 million would need food aid.

Zimbabwe suffered a prolonged dry spell between February and March leading to crop failure in several provinces, the government-controlled Herald said.

Masvingo, Manicaland, Midlands, Matabeleland North and South provinces are the worst affected, the newspaper said.

China lent Zimbabwe $700 million on Monday. At the same time, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan emphasised on a visit to Harare that he hoped Chinese businesses would be protected from the mineral rich southern African country plans to increase ownership by black Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe expected to harvest about 1.7 million tonnes of grain in 2011, up from FAO estimates of 1.3 million tonnes in 2010 season and 1.2 million tonnes the season before.
“Most of the maize crop was at vegetative growth stages and in a fair to good condition. This positive crop production outlook has been halted by low rainfall activities for most of February in most parts of the country,” the U.S. Agency for International Development’s famine early-warning systems network said on its website.
“The southern half of the country appears most affected, having experienced a dry spell of close to 20 days by late February,” it said.