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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Maize Production 2004, Feast or Famine

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

071139Z Jun 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000944

SIPDIS

AID FOR DCHA/FFP LANDIS, CRUMBLY, MUTAMBA, PETERSEN
DCHA/OFDA FOR PRATT, AUSTRENG, KHANDAGLE, MENGH
ETTI, BORNS, MARX, HALMRAST-SANCHEZ
AFR/SA FOR FLEURET, LOKEN, COPSON, MACNAIRN
EGAT FOR HOBGOOD, THOMPSON
STATE/AF FOR RAYNOR
PRETORIA FOR, DISKIN, HALE, SINK, REYNOLDS
NAIROBI FOR SMITH, BROWN
LILONGWE FOR RUBEY
LUSAKA FOR GUNTHER, NIELSON
MAPUTO FOR POLAND, BLISS, THOMPSON
MASERU FOR AMB LOFTIS
MBABANE FOR KENNA
GABORONE FOR THOMAS, BROWN
ROME FOR FODAG FOR LAVELLE, DAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE MAIZE PRODUCTION 2004, FEAST OR FAMINE


--------
Summary
--------

1. In recent weeks, the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ)
officially proclaimed maize production of about 2.4
million metric tons (MT) and firmly stated that it will
not need food aid. The GOZ withdrew from the FAO/WFP Crop
and Food Assessment by ordering its staff back from the
field, thus scuttling the joint effort to estimate crop
production. Knowledgeable experts have independently
estimated maize production, and these estimates range from
slightly less than last year's maize harvest of around
800,000 MT to around 1.2 million MT. None approach the
GOZ estimate. Notwithstanding the GOZ's alleged bumper
harvest, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is buying
substantial quantities of grain. At this point, it
remains unclear if there will be a need for food
assistance in Zimbabwe and, if so, whether the GOZ will
permit the international community to mount such an
effort.

2. The Mission recently held a working session to update
its humanitarian strategy and develop contingency plans to
address the rapidly changing situation. This humanitarian
strategy is being finalized and will be sent to Washington
for comment/review. The proposed strategic approach,
coordinated with other donors, will be to (1) gather all
available information to make the best estimate of
humanitarian needs, (2) maintain a field presence of NGOs
through highly targeted humanitarian assistance programs
to the most vulnerable, allowing for rapid scale up if a
humanitarian crisis arises, and (3) closely and carefully
monitor and document the situation so that instances of
politicization can be publicized and condemned. End
Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -
2003/2004 maize production and food insecurity
--------------------------------------------- -

3. With the cancellation of the UN Crop and Food Supply
Assessment Mission (CFSAM) in early May, there is no
definitive estimate of this year's maize harvest in
Zimbabwe. The GOZ estimates a bumper crop of around 2.4
million MT. This is significantly at variance with
estimates of 0.8 to 1.2 million MT projected by
independent analysts. FAO recently reported, based on the
CFSAM's visits to three main provinces, their observations
along the travel routes and interviews with informants at
local level, that this year's total food production (maize
plus small grains) would be even lower than last year's
980,000 MTs. (Note: a rough estimate of area planted based
on seed sales and use of retained seed is 1.2 to 1.4
million hectares. With an average yield of anywhere from
0.6, the yield level last year, to 0.9 MT per hectare, the
production of maize and small grains could therefore be
anywhere from 720,000 to 1.14 million MT. End Note.)

4. Zimbabwe's annual requirement for human consumption
of maize and small grains is 1.8 million MT. The
shortfall, based on estimates of 0.8 - 1.2 million MT
production, would be 600,000 to one million MT. Last year
the GMB imported 400,000 metric tons. The UNDP reported
in February that GOZ officials told them they were being
tasked with securing enough foreign exchange to purchase
800,000 metric tons of grain. Available information
suggests that the Government of Zimbabwe may very well
have the capability this year to fill the cereal gap from
its own resources, or at least a significant part of the
gap, should it so choose. Compared to last year, the GOZ
is capturing more foreign exchange and presently is `in
the market' buying grain. There are numerous rumors that
GMB officials recently went to Australia to buy grain with
foreign exchange derived from cotton and tobacco sales.
Local and international media have also reported that U.S.
companies are purchasing grain for the GOZ secured by
tobacco receipts.

5. At this point in time, it is not possible to estimate
how many Zimbabweans will be food insecure over the coming
year, requiring some level of food assistance. The
recently completed ZIMVAC, which is still being analyzed,
will hopefully provide an accurate estimate. Comments from
ZIMVAC observers point to improvement from last year in
certain areas, but note that some households will exhaust
their own production sometime between August and September
2004 -- three months after harvest. Economic conditions
have made the staple grain, maize, unaffordable for a
large number of Zimbabweans. The WFP and FAO are
compiling district level data on crop production, food
availability and affordability from NGO sources and their
own monitors. This exercise will help to identify areas
of greatest need, but will not, however, include an
estimate of total production.

------------------------------------------
International food assistance in 2004-2005
------------------------------------------

6. All major donors and UN agencies anticipate that the
participation of international organizations, donors and
NGOs in food assistance this coming year will be greatly
restricted. The World Food Program (WFP) suspended
general food distribution for May and June, on the
assumption that there would be enough food to meet
immediate post-harvest needs. Beneficiary figures dropped
from 4.5 million in April, when general feeding was in
operation, to 545,000 in May for targeted distribution
only. WFP's regional Emergency Operation (EMOP) that
concludes the last day of June is being extended through
December. WFP has 65,000 tons of carryover stocks that
can cover targeted feeding to the chronically ill (i.e.,
those likely suffering from AIDS), children and other
highly vulnerable groups through that period. WFP's
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the GOZ, that
covers the operation of NGOs in household food
distribution, expires at the end of June. WFP is
approaching the GOZ to negotiate a new MOU that will deal
specifically with targeted feeding.

7. Options for the international community are limited.
The NGOs have developed a substantial infrastructure and
field capability to deliver food for general distribution
and targeted feeding. Current information on the likely
harvest and GOZ imports does not justify the continuation
of a large-scale food aid program. Nonetheless, by
continuing targeted feeding programs the international
community can maintain a presence and be poised to respond
rapidly to humanitarian needs if a crisis arises. The GOZ
has left the door open for targeted feeding which is
continuing under WFP and the USAID-funded C-SAFE
(Consortium for Southern African Food Emergency) program.
C-SAFE's Market Assistance Program (MAP), that sells
subsidized sorghum meal through retail shops in high-
density urban areas in Bulawayo, is planning to expand to
other poor urban communities. However, it will be
difficult to rationalize allocation of additional food
donations to these programs with a reported surplus in
country. Also, the GOZ would have to grant import and bio-
safety permits for donor importation of any additional
food, even for targeted feeding programs.

-----------
Discussion
-----------

8. The Government of Zimbabwe is publicly acknowledging
its primary responsibility for feeding of its own
population, which is commendable. On the other hand, by
restricting international food operations the GOZ will
have nearly total control of food distribution. In light
of widespread, credible reports of partisan food
distribution by the GOZ and its Grain Marketing Board, it
will be essential for the international community to try
to monitor the situation closely, publicizing and
condemning all instances of politicization of food
distribution. International oversight will be especially
crucial as the country enters its election cycle, with
Parliamentary elections still scheduled for March 2005.
However, with growing GOZ harassment of NGOs and a reduced
presence of WFP, it may become increasingly difficult for
the international community to keep on top of developments
in the country's rural areas. It will also be necessary
to document the evolving situation carefully, so that
responsibility is appropriately assigned for any
humanitarian crisis that arises due to inadequate
planning.

9. The Mission recently held a working session as a first
step in updating its Humanitarian Assistance Strategy. The
strategy, which is still being finalized and will be sent
to Washington for comment/review, will incorporate
contingency plans to address the rapidly changing
situation within the country. The proposed strategic
approach, coordinated with other donors, will be to (1)
gather all available information to make the best estimate
of humanitarian needs, (2) maintain a field presence of
NGOs through highly targeted humanitarian assistance
programs to the most vulnerable, allowing for rapid scale
up if necessary, and (3) closely and carefully monitor and
document the situation so that instances of politicization
can be publicized and condemned. SULLIVAN

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