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April 28, 2005

ZIMBABWE: Government urged to appeal for food aid

Zimbabwe has virtually run out of the staple maize grain, according to its main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. The party urged President Robert Mugabe to appeal for foreign donor aid, according to the Reuters news agency.

Zimbabwe has virtually run out of the staple maize grain, according to its main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. The party urged President Robert Mugabe to appeal for foreign donor aid, according to the Reuters news agency.

Renson Gasela, MDC shadow agriculture minister said the party estimated maize output from the just ended cropping season at about 500,000 tonnes against domestic requirements of 1.8m tonnes.

Gasela told a news conference the country did not have adequate stocks to see it through to the next harvest and that some districts in drought-prone areas were already out of food.

“In simple terms … the country has run out of maize and this is a fact,” Gasela added, bemoaning what he called failure by the government to quickly approach international donors.

“A lead time of three months is required to land maize in the country if such maize comes from South America, for example. From South Africa the lead time is two months,” Gasela said, adding that millions of Zimbabweans could not wait that long.

Government officials could not be reached for comment on the MDC’s assessment of the maize situation, Reuters said.

The opposition says the government has no foreign currency for food imports and that it will be hard to lure back international aid agencies after Mugabe stopped donors from distributing food last year, arguing that the country had sufficient domestic resources to feed itself.

The United Nations World Food Programme this week said at least 80,000 tonnes of maize would be needed in six southern African countries including Zimbabwe between April and June after drought reduced output, but that only 27,000 tonnes was available.

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