UN appeals for food aid of R1bn for six of 10 Zimbabwe provinces

Six of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces face severe food shortages, and the government has ordered the country’s grain marketing board to send grain to the affected areas, a state daily said today.

“The board is holding on to 270 000 metric tons and have to start helping our people,” Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told The Herald newspaper.

Zimbabwe needs an estimated 2.2 million tons of maize each year.

A government crop assessment carried out in January found that the country had more than two million hectares of maize planted, up from 1.8 million last year, and was expecting to harvest 1.7 million tons.

The United Nations has appealed for $415 million (about R1 billion) to feed 1.7 million people this year until the harvest starts in May.

This year Zimbabwe received normal rains at the beginning of the year, but some crops have been written off following a dry spell between February and March.

Since 2000, the southern African nation has faced successive years of food shortages that coincided with controversial land reforms launched by long-time President Robert Mugabe to seize nearly 4 000 white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.

The programme has combined with poor rains and shortages of seed and fertiliser to force a country once considered the breadbasket of the region to depend on food aid.

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