Zim needs food aid for 1.7 million
Harare - About 1.7 million Zimbabweans will require food aid, even though the latest harvest showed significant gains, the United Nations' food agency said on Tuesday.
About 133 000 tons of food aid will be needed to help 1.68 million people between now and the next harvest in May, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) said.
That marks a significant improvement from the disastrous 2008 harvest, which left seven million people in need of more than 1m tons of food.
"Despite the improved availability of food, up to 1.68 million people will need food assistance because prices remain comparatively high for families with low incomes and little or no access to US dollars or South African Rand," the two currencies adopted in Zimbabwe, said WFP's Jan Delbaere, co-author of the report.
"Zimbabwe has only 1.66 million tons of cereals available, against a total needs forecast of 2.09 million tons" this year, said FAO official Liliana Balbi.
Most of the shortfall will be met through commercial imports, she added.
The report followed a UN mission in June which found the harvest of the stable grain maize increased by 20% in 2010 from the year before.
The UN agencies cited a $70m international farm aid scheme and government efforts for the improved harvest.
Aid agencies had earlier estimated the number of Zimbabweans in need of food aid this year at at least 2.17 million.
Once a breadbasket of the region, Zimbabwe has experienced a decade of acute food shortages, brought on by drought and a crippling land reform programme carried out by President Robert Mugabe.