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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Humanitarian Crisis: The Food Gap

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 002217

SIPDIS

USAID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA FOR HAJJAR, HALMREST-SANCHEZ,
BRYAN, KHANDAGLE AND MARX
DCHA/FFP FOR LANDIS, BRAUSE, SKORIC AND PETERSEN,
AFR/SA FOR POE AND COPSON,
AFR/SD FOR ISALROW AND WHELAN

STATE FOR AF/S DELISI AND RAYNOR

NAIROBI FOR DCHA/OFDA/ARO FOR RILEY, MYER AND SMITH,
REDSO/ESA/FFP FOR SENYKOFF

NSC FOR DWORKEN

GENEVA PLEASE PASS TO UNOCHA, IFRC

PRETORIA FOR USAID/DCHA/FFP FOR DISKIN AND FAS HELM

ROME PLEASE PASS TO FODAG

FOLLOWING TELEGRAM SENT AS HARARE 2160 SEPTEMBER 26 HAD TEXT
ON THE RIGHT MARGIN TRUNCATED. THE CORRECTED COPY IS
REPEATED BELOW.

QUOTE
UNCLASS HARARE 2160

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: THE FOOD GAP
REFS: (A) Zimbabwe Emergency Food Security Assessment

Report,
16 September 2002, Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment
Committee
(B) Harare 1141

1. Summary: The Zimbabwe Emergency Food Security Assessment
Report prepared by the Zimbabwe National Vulnerability
Assessment Committee (VAC), in collaboration with a number
of UN Agencies, NGOs, the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) and
SADC, was released on 16 September 2002. This report raises
the anticipated emergency food needs for Zimbabwe by 14%
(35,000 MT) over the current UN appeal to 486,000 MT for the
period September '02 to March `03. The report identifies an
unmet cereal gap of 379,020 MT, beyond plans for a
significant
increase in the GOZ's total planned food imports to nearly
1 million MT of grain, and an additional 218,000 MT of
requested food aid. The report, however, envisions
virtually
no role for the private sector to import grain, as a result
of continuing GOZ restrictions on private sector food
imports
and sales. If the report's optimistic assumption regarding
increased GOZ imports does not come to fruition, or if
donors
do not respond adequately to the appeal for additional food
aid, then the unmet cereal deficit could rise dramatically
and
the food crisis could deteriorate rapidly.

2. While confirmed pledges have been received for about 25%
of the WFP EMOP appeal to date, with unconfirmed pledges for
another 25%, for a variety of reasons, the Mission believes
that delivery of the remaining 50% (about 230,000 MT) before
the next harvest season (March/April 2003) could prove more
problematic. The vulnerability assessment also fails to
address the possibility that the GOZ may not be able to
import
all of the additional planned amount of 651,000 MT to meet
its
total commitment of one million MT by that time.

3. If these optimistic projections of future food imports do
not materialize, we estimate that the actual human food need
gap (that amount not covered by actual production, and food
imports by the GOZ, private sector, and donors) could
increase significantly from 145,000 MT (assuming the GOZ
meets its
full commitment and the entire donor appeal is met) to as
much as 1.2 million MT (if no additional GOZ and donor
imports materialize). Given current actions and
constraints,
the Mission suggests that a more likely food gap scenario
might be around 600,000 to 700,000 MT (if the GOZ meets only
half of its stated commitment and current trends in donor
contributions continue). This cable is to alert all
concerned parties that extraordinary efforts will be
required
by both the GOZ, Zimbabwe's private sector and the
international donor community to minimize this gap, and
avoid
a potentially serious national catastrophe in Zimbabwe. In
this interest, the Mission offers some suggestions for USG
consideration in this regard. End Summary.

REFS: (A) Zimbabwe Emergency Food Security Assessment
Report,
16 September 2002, Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment
Committee
(B) Harare 1141

3. The recent Vulnerability Assessment Committee report on
the current situation in Zimbabwe identifies a remaining
uncovered human food gap of almost 379,000 Metric Tons (MT),
without any allowance for a cushioning Strategic Reserve
(ref. A, p. 8). Based on this revised needs assessment, it
calls for a 14% increase in proposed food aid imports from
the 453,000 MT included in the current World Food Program
(WFP) Emergency Operation (EMOP) appeal for Zimbabwe, based
on the Zimbabwe Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission
(CFSAM) conducted in May (2002) by WFP and the Food and
Agricultural Organization (FAO) (Ref. B), to 486,000 MT
(ref. A, p. 22).

4. This revised assessment of Zimbabwe's outstanding food
gap is based on several critical assumptions, principally
relating to future food import plans by both the GOZ and
the donor community. The Mission feels it is important to
highlight these assumptions, as well as the resulting
potentially serious implications for the on-going
humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe should they not prove to be
accurate predictions of what, in fact, actually occurs over
the coming months.

5. Perhaps the most important assumption is that this
estimated gap assumes an additional 651,000 MT of food
imports by the GOZ (for a total of almost 1 million MT).
Given the current parlous state of the Zimbabwean economy
and government finances (particularly with respect to scarce
Foreign Exchange (FX) resources), the Mission and greater
U.N. and donor community retain serious doubts regarding
the GOZ's ability to complete these ambitious plans and
fulfil their stated future food import commitment.

6. The second major assumption is the proposed 218,380 MT
of additional international donor food aid imports projected
to the next harvest in March/April 2003. As noted above,
the current WFP EMOP calls for 453,000 MT of food imports.
As of September 20, the status of confirmed pledges to this
appeal totalled 111,590 MT (about 25 percent). An
additional
110,000 MT of unconfirmed pledges have also been reported by
WFP, for a grand total of about 225,000 MT, or almost half
(49%) of the total appeal. Based on these figures, it seems
reasonable to expect that the international community will
be able to meet its share of the VAC import commitment noted
above within the specified time period.

5. However, even if all of these imports are successfully
completed in time, according to the report, an estimated
379,000 MT food gap remains. Approximately 234,575 MT of
this gap can be met if the full amount of the current WFP
appeal is met, leaving an unmet remaining gap balance of
approximately 145,000 MT. Hence, even if the full current
WFP request is met, additional efforts will be required to
ensure adequate food stocks throughout the country until
the next harvest.

6. To date, approximately 70,000 MT of food aid has been
imported (approximately 45,000 MT of which has been
distributed). The vast majority of this was accounted for
REFS: (A) Zimbabwe Emergency Food Security Assessment
Report,
16 September 2002, Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment
Committee
(B) Harare 1141

under WFP's original Zimbabwe EMOP which effectively ended
in June 2002 when the current, larger EMOP began. This
means, effectively, that in order to meet the VAC
projections
the international community will need to import more than
the
entirety of the current WFP 450,000 MT request between now
and end-March 2003. Considering the lethargy of the
response
to date, the yet-to-be-satisfactorily-resolved problems
associated with the biotech issue for US corn/maize imports,
the continuing serious constraints imposed by government on
NGO implementing partner capacity, and the increasing
congestion being experienced in regional logistical
operations
(which can be expected to worsen considerably with the onset
of the rainy season in about one month's time), this will be
a tall task in itself, regardless of the government's
success
in meeting its respective commitments.

7. The final point is that even if all of these significant
commitments are met, a Zimbabwe food gap of about 145,000 MT
will remain. Thus, at least some additional assistance will
be required. Ideally, this additional increment could be
met
through local private sector imports. In this interest, the
initial CFSAM called for some 312,000 MT of private sector
imports. However, due to government restrictions,
Zimbabwe's
private sector has not been permitted to fulfil its planned
role in responding to the crisis. The figures noted above
suggest the need for renewed efforts in attempting to get
the
GOZ to relax its current restrictions and allow private
sector
food imports to proceed. However, this also assumes that
the
private sector will be willing and able to respond, as
required,
given current government market and pricing controls and FX
constraints/restrictions. Failing this, additional
government
and/or donor imports will be required (beyond the
considerable
amounts already discussed above).

8. To address this situation, the Mission suggests the
following course of action:

-A. Hold the GOZ accountable for meeting its planned future
import commitment of 651,000 MT. Otherwise, the donor
community could be held responsible for over one million MT
of food requirements, which we consider to be an unrealistic
target even under the best of circumstances.

-B. At the same time, given the high degree of scepticism
regarding the GOZ's ability to meet these requirements, the
donor community must also quietly plan, on a "contingency"
basis, for the possibility that the GOZ will prove unable
REFS: (A) Zimbabwe Emergency Food Security Assessment
Report,
16 September 2002, Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment
Committee
(B) Harare 1141

to fulfil all or a part of its commitments.

-C. Renew efforts to get the GOZ to reform current policy
restrictions related to the FX market, imports, sales and
prices of essential food and agricultural commodities, and
the role of NGOs and the greater private sector in food
imports and distribution operations, which are seriously
impeding the collective ability to respond to the growing
crisis.

-D. Continue USG efforts to respond as soon and as much as
possible to the current food crisis in Zimbabwe. Regarding
the particular USG issue associated with biotech food
commodities:
--Finalize and complete the current corn/maize swap deal
with the GOZ as soon as possible;
--Work with the GOZ to develop acceptable "permanent"
solutions to the biotech issue for Zimbabwe; and
--Determine realistic food assistance alternatives to
biotech
food (in the event that a more lasting local solution cannot
be found in a timely manner). Recent discussions with
government suggest that some type of monetized wheat program
may be one such possible alternative, albeit with only
limited application in urban areas.

-E. Continue to urge other international donors to increase
and accelerate their commitments to Zimbabwe (both through
the WFP program as well as through supplementary bilateral
activities).

9. Comment: The recent VAC report serves to underline the
seriousness of the food security situation in Zimbabwe.
It clearly highlights the worsening nature of the crisis,
and the need for renewed efforts by all concerned parties
to avoid a potential major humanitarian disaster. The
Mission believes it provides a timely reminder of the
considerable efforts that will be required over the coming
months in this interest. Continuing USG attention and
support in this endeavour, as suggested above, will be
appreciated. Sullivan

UNQUOTE
SULLIVAN

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