The United Nations warns Zimbabwe faces another poor harvest this year because of patchy rains, compounding problems for millions grappling with drought and the worst economic crisis in a decade.
Soaring inflation, shortages foreign exchange, fuel and electricity brought back memories of the hyperinflation of a decade ago, amid criticism that President Emmerson Mnangagwa failed to turn the economy around.
“This season’s rains are again late and inadequate, with planted seed failing to germinate in many areas,” the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement.
“Forecasts of continuing hot and dry weather in the weeks ahead signal another poor harvest in April, putting lives and livelihoods at risk.”
Maize output fell 50% to 900,000 tons this year according to official data. Government plans to import 800,000 tons to make up the deficit.
Facing soaring prices for seed, fertiliser and chemicals, some farmers reduced planting during the summer cropping season that started in November, farmer unions said.
A majority of Zimbabweans live in rural areas and survive on farming. The southern African nation has only had one year of normal rainfall in the past five, according to WFP officials.
WFP says it needs $200 million in the first half of next year to assist 4.1 million Zimbabweans.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said government will spend $133 million on subsidies for maize meal to keep the price of the most consumed food affordable.
The economic crisis led to growing political tensions, with police clamping down on dissent, leading to opposition claims Mnangagwa is reverting to harsh tactics seen under the late Robert Mugabe’s rule.