Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zimbabwe's food security improving

A good harvest in Zimbabwe this year means less people will need food assistance. A new report says that food security is improving in Zimbabwe, thanks to the harvest, getting rid of the countries currency, and improved supply and demand.

From this IRIN article that we found at Reuters Alert Net, we learn more details from the food security report issued by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Food Security Outlook.

Food security has greatly improved since the 2008/09 season, when nearly 7 million people were receiving food assistance, compared with projections for the 2009/10 period, when an estimated 2 million to 2.4 million people will require assistance.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and UN World Food Programme Crop and Food Assessment Mission forecast the 2009 cereal harvest at 1.3 million tons, compared to 690,000 tons in 2008.

A better harvest, lifting import duties on basic commodities, and the dollarization of the economy have ameliorated food scarcity, the FEWS NET report said. The Zimbabwe dollar, which was fuelling hyperinflation, was discontinued earlier his year.

The use of multiple currencies - South African rand, Botswana pula and US dollar - coupled with the introduction of an across-the-board US$100 monthly wage for government employees in February 2009, has seen market-driven forces providing the impetus to fill shop shelves. Donor organizations are also paying medical staff a US$100 monthly stipend.

According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, in June 2009 the US$100 monthly salary was only sufficient for 20 percent of a family's monthly food requirements; even if other essentials, such as health, education, clothing and housing were discounted, it would only cover about 70 percent of household food expenses.

Zimbabwe's economy has been in recession for a decade and around 94 percent of the population are unemployed; many rely on remittances from family members working in neighbouring states or further afield in Britain and the US.

"Between January and June 2009, some basic food items fell by between 30 [percent] and 60 percent, but prices still remain between three and six times higher than the five-year average for June [2009]. Between April and June 2009, maize grain price dropped by 31 percent and maize flour went down by 15 percent," the report said.

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