Food imports needed to avert crisis

HARARE - Parliament has discussed plans to import huge amounts of food to stave off starvation caused by drought and agricultural chaos.

Legislators warned that food security risked triggering unrest in the country as the US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said the number of Zimbabweans in need of emergency food aid now stands at 2.17 million. Senator Damian Diamonds Mumvuri told Parliament that government was seeking to import 500,000 tonnes of staple foods. Food has to be provided without delay to avert a human catastrophe, Mumvuri warned the Upper House. Food deficits can also threaten peace and security in the communities. Food riots may break out as has been the case in some parts of the world and in Zimbabwe in 1998.

Zimbabwe was once considered the breadbasket of the region. Now, Zimbabweans wait in long food lines to get bags of increasingly rare maize meal. Over the past year, the unity government of President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai has ordered huge amounts of maize from neighbouring South Africa and Zambia. MDC Senator Obert Gutu said: I have this feeling that no money has been secured to import maize and I am very concerned because we do not want a situation where we have people starving; where Zimbabwe with all its resources, people literally starve or have to wait for food aid from CARE International. Let us avoid a situation where donors are responsible for feeding the nation.

Senator Monica Mutsvangwa claimed the looming starvation was a result of drought. Critics however insist farm occupations are largely responsible for the collapse of agriculture.

Last year, Zimbabwe produced less than 400,000 tonnes of maize, down from 2.1 million tonnes in 2000.

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