Massive grain deficit looms (01-03-07

HARARE - Zimbabwe faces a massive grain deficit again this year amid reports that the bulk of Zimbabwe's early planted maize crop has been irreparably damaged by a prolonged dry spell across the country in January and early February, says the national crop assessment unit.
"The early planted maiz

e crop in most provinces is reported to be a total write-off as it was severely affected by the mid-season dry spell at tasselling stage. The recent rains in most parts of the country have greatly improved the general condition of the late-planted crop but with high chances of getting low yields,” said the report by AREX, a department within the Agriculture ministry.
The dry spell had also affected the leaf size of some of the season’s tobacco crop and was likely to cause a fall in yields. Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s major cash crop and rakes in approximately a third of the country’s foreign currency earnings.
In a recent report, the US-based Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) said that output from the 2006/7 (November-March) crop was likely to be down since cash constraints had forced communal farmers to use low-yielding maize seed varieties. FEWSNET said contingency plans should be put in place to deal with a possible shortage of the staple grain. – Gift Phiri

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