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Cablegate: Holding Zimbabwe Accountable for Food

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

090819Z Jul 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001139

SIPDIS

AID FOR DCHA/FFP LANDIS, CRUMBLY, MUTAMBA, PETERSEN
DCHA/OFDA FOR KHANDAGLE, BORNS
AFR/SA FOR LOKEN, COPSON, MACNAIRN
EGAT FOR HOBGOOD, THOMPSON
DEPT FOR AF/S ARORIAN
PRETORIA FOR, DISKIN, HALE, SINK, REYNOLDS
GABORONE FOR THOMAS, BROWN
ROME FOR FODAG FOR LAVELLE, DAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: HOLDING ZIMBABWE ACCOUNTABLE FOR FOOD

REF: (A) HARARE 00768; (B) HARARE 00944

--------------------------
Summary and Action Request
--------------------------

1.The Food and Agriculture Organization/Rome
(FAO) of the United Nations (UN) recently released a
special report on Zimbabwe, dated 5 July 2004. This
report estimates the country's cereal production for
the 2003-2004 agricultural year to be about 950,000
metric tons (MT), compared to a need of around 1.9
million MT for human consumption. This special
report was issued by the FAO, without concurrence of
the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ), because the GOZ
canceled a joint crop and food supply assessment
mission (CFSAM) in May, which was expected to
provide the most authoritative estimates of the
country's grain harvest (Reftel A). FAO's estimate
of Zimbabwe's grain harvest is roughly consistent
with other independent estimates, but significantly
lower than the GOZ's claimed bumper harvest. The
GOZ continues to use the claimed bumper harvest as
justification for its insistence that Zimbabwe
neither wants nor needs significant amounts of
international food assistance (except for small,
targeted programs), which would give the GOZ nearly
total control of food stocks in the period leading
up to the scheduled March 2005 Parliamentary
elections.

2.FAO's special report and other independent
assessments make a credible case that this year's
cereal deficit will be roughly as large as last
year's, during which the international community
operated a large food distribution program.
Given the lack of transparency and information-
sharing by the GOZ, it is unclear to what extent the
GOZ will be able to import significant amounts of
grain to close the country's cereal gap, although
the FAO report estimates that the GOZ could import
as much as 620,000 MT, leaving a cereal deficit of
around 320,000 MT. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability
Assessment Committee (ZimVac) is also expected on
Monday to release its vulnerability assessment
report, which we have been informed will estimate
that 2.3 million Zimbabweans are food insecure (See
Septel). Given this continuing uncertainty and the
likely precarious situation of Zimbabwe's vulnerable
population, the international community should
question both the ability of the country to import
sufficient food, and the GOZ's intentions for
procuring and distributing food. Action Request:
We recommend that the US work with the United
Nations (UN) and with other United Nations Security
Council (UNSC) members to orchestrate a UNSC session
in which the FAO is called upon to outline the
unfolding food situation in Zimbabwe and GOZ would
be asked to respond. End Summary.

-----------------------------------------
CEREAL PRODUCTION IN ZIMBABWE FOR 2004-5
-----------------------------------------

3.The (GOZ) officially proclaimed a "bumper"
harvest this year with maize production of about 2.4
million MT and total grain production of 2.8 million
MT (Reftel B). But other reports, including those by
independent experts, FAO, and FEWSNET, refute those
figures. Most estimate less than half of what the
GOZ claims, and all predict a food deficit.

4.The most comprehensive crop and livestock
assessment in Zimbabwe is usually carried out by the
GOZ, FAO and WFP together, an exercise referred to
as the Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission
(CFSAM). The 2004 CFSAM to Zimbabwe was curtailed
d
by the abrupt and unexplained GOZ withdrawal of
participating staff (Reftel A). As a result, the
FAO and WFP teams visited only three of the
country's eight provinces. Based on this limited
field work, and supplemented by information from a
number of sources, including GOZ statistics,
rainfall data, satellite imagery and discussions
with experts during and after the CFSAM, FAO/Rome
recently issued a special report on Zimbabwe
estimating the country's cereal production.

5.The following summarizes the 2003-4
agricultural season production estimates for
Zimbabwe by various entities/sources:

- GOZ: Maize production 2,431,182 MT, other cereals
374,813 MT, total cereal production 2,805,995 MT.

- FEWSNET: Maize production 1,400,000 MT, other
cereals 260,000 MT, total cereal production
1,660,000 million MT.

- Zim Consult: Maize production 650-850,000 MT,
other cereals 100-200,000 MT, total cereal
production 750,000-1,050,000 MT.

- FAO Rome, Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission:
Maize production 708,073 MT, other cereals 243,341
MT, total cereal production 951,414 MT.

- Food Security Brief, March 2004 (FAO, WFP,
FEWSNET, UNDP): Maize production 800,000-1,200,000
MT, other cereals 200,000 MT, total cereal
production 1.1-1.3 million MT.

--------------------------------
CEREAL REQUIREMENTS IN ZIMBABWE
--------------------------------

6.Estimated cereal requirements for human
consumption in Zimbabwe for 2004-5, according to the
FAO/Rome report released this week, are about 1.94
million MT (based on 2002 census, as amended, and
163 kg cereals per person/yr). Thus, for human
consumption alone, nearly 1.3 million tons would
need to be imported to meet the deficit.

7.The quantity of cereals to be used for animal
feed is likely to be lower than last year, due to
high cost, grain shortages, and reduced numbers of
animals. FAO/Rome estimates a requirement of 125,000
MT for animal feed.

----------------------
IMPORT REQUIREMENTS
----------------------

8.A cereal balance sheet is used to predict the
supply and demand for cereals within a country,
providing a basis for calculating importation
requirements. In Zimbabwe, the completion of a
balance sheet is severely hampered by the GOZ's lack
of transparency and withholding of information. The
GOZ refuses to share with donors any information on
the domestic availability of food stocks, including
the amounts stored and location, planned food
procurement or import figures.

9.Using various calculations and assumptions
regarding stocks held by the GOZ, FAO/Rome estimates
a total import requirement for Zimbabwe of 1,290,286
MT cereals for 2004-5 (995,927 MT of maize, 9,359 MT
sorghum, 276,100 MT wheat and 8,900 MT rice). World
Food Program reportedly has 60,000 MT cereals
pledged and available within the country, which
lessens the import requirement to 1,230,286 MT.

10.Whether the GOZ will be able to import enough
food to feed the population remains to be seen. It
It
is feasible, however, for the country to meet this
import requirement, in light of the good maize
production in neighboring Zambia and Mozambique this
year, especially if the GOZ eases restrictions on
private sector maize import. Increased cotton
production, higher tobacco prices, and the Reserve
Bank's improved capturing of foreign remittances,
among other things, have improved the country's
foreign exchange situation somewhat over last year.
FAO estimates that the GOZ has already contracted to
import 220,000 MT of maize, and has the ability to
import an additional 400,000 MT (for a total import
capacity of around 620,000 MT). If this is correct,
the country would still have a deficit of 325,286 MT
of cereals.

----------------------------------------
FEARS ABOUT GOZ POLITICIZATION OF FOOD
----------------------------------------

11.Even if Zimbabwe is able to import the total
1.2 million MT of cereals needed to meet the
estimated deficit, politicization of food remains a
serious concern. Now that imports of international
food have been stopped, the GOZ will be in total
control of food distributions within Zimbabwe, and
will be able to decide who does and does not receive
food. Given widespread, credible reports of GOZ
partisan food distribution in the past, most donors
fear that the GOZ would use political criteria for
food distribution rather than basing food aid on
vulnerability criteria. This may forecast very hard
times ahead for those perceived by the GOZ to be
opposition supporters.

---------------------------------
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
---------------------------------

12.The FAO/Rome and other reports make a credible
case that that this year's cereal deficit will be
roughly as large as last year's (during which the
international community operated a large food
distribution program), despite the GOZ allegations
of a "bumper" harvest. Due to the lack of
transparency and information-sharing by the GOZ, it
remains unclear to what extent the GOZ will be able
to import significant amounts of grain to close the
country's cereal gap. Given this continuing
uncertainty and the likely precarious situation of
Zimbabwe's vulnerable population, the international
community should question both the ability of the
country to import sufficient food, and the GOZ's
intentions for procuring and distributing food. UN
offices in Zimbabwe have so far been unable to
promote the necessary dialogue needed to address the
food security situation.

13.We recommend that the US work with the UN and
with other United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
members to orchestrate a UNSC session in which FAO
is called upon to outline the likely food situation
in Zimbabwe and GOZ would be asked to respond. The
UN Resident Representative has told us privately
that a UNSC session on the Zimbabwe food situation
would be appropriate and useful.

14.In the best of circumstances, such a session
n
could force the GOZ to acknowledge its excessive
optimism, perhaps provide facts on its import
intentions, and acknowledge its needs so that donors
could assist the most vulnerable, as well as gain
some pledges based on GOZ readiness to coordinate
its food programs with the UN. In the worst case,
the UNSC could reach a conclusion that GOZ is
neglecting the needs of its people and bears
responsibility for any resultant food crisis.
SULLIVAN

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