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Cablegate: Food Security Update

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

200539Z May 05




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Food Security Update

REF: Harare 425


1. (SBU) Food insecurity will likely be widespread in
Zimbabwe this year. Concerns about the maize (corn)
harvest (reftel), the country's staple crop, have been
borne out and a large deficit is being forecast. The
problem could be exacerbated by Zimbabwe's lack of foreign
exchange, which could complicate efforts to import food.
We recommend prudent USG planning to be able to respond
quickly in the event of a crisis and an approach now to the
GOZ to approve donor feeding of most vulnerable groups.
End Summary.

Poor Maize Harvest; Uncertain Outlook

2. (SBU) Given the poor maize harvest this year, all
observers, including the mission's food monitors, the UN,
other donors, and privately some Government of Zimbabwe
(GOZ) officials, expect a deficit of approximately one
million metric tons (MTs), against a need of 1.5 to 1.8
MTs. This will represent a larger deficit than was the
case in 2002, the last serious food crisis, when donors
provided over 300,000 MTs of grain.

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3. (SBU) It is as yet unclear whether this deficit will
translate into wide-spread hunger. Although the estimates
of the harvest are low - 400,000 to 600,000 MTs, we do not
yet know the actual number, nor whether farmers are
withholding part of the harvest from the GOZ's monopoly
Grain Marketing Board, as claimed by the GOZ. In addition,
we do not know how much grain is currently in GOZ stocks,
and the GOZ is very unlikely to share accurate data.
Finally, historically donors have consistently
underestimated the GOZ's capacity to import food and have
underestimated the population's coping capacity.

Need for Prudent Planning

4. (SBU) That said, the GOZ's foreign exchange levels are
at the lowest level since independence, therefore so is its
ability to import food. In addition, the economy is
considerably shrunk from 2002-2003 and it is not at all
clear that the coping mechanism's the population has been
using will continue to function in this crisis. Widespread
food insecurity therefore seems likely.

5. (SBU) For 2005, assuming a 600,000 MTs maize crop, a GOZ
ability to import up to 600,000 MTs more and insignificant
carry over stock, against a demand for 1.6 million MTs, we
estimate a maize deficit of 400,000 MTs, of which 200,000
MTs is for livestock and seed. This calulation gives a
best case critical human food deficit of approximately
200,000 MTs.

6. (SBU) It is unclear as yet whether the GOZ will issue an
appeal. WFP informally told us (protect source) that the
planning figure for an appeal should one be called is
200,000 MTs. Based on our discussions with WFP and C-SAFE,
we plan to monitor the situation closely and recommend that
the USG be prepared to respond quickly if a crisis begins
to develop or the GOZ makes an appeal. In the interval,
with Washington approval, we recommend an approach to the
GOZ to approve vulnerable group feeding for a limited
number of those most at risk and to expand school feeding
to encompass take-home rations.


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