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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Spectre of famine looms in Zimbabwe as crops fail
following erratic rainfalls during agricultural season

Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- A disaster is looming in Zimbabwe following a severe drought that has left most of the planted maize crop for the current season either moisture-stressed or being declared a write-off.

Drives along the country’s major highways often show sorry sights of wilted maize as the El Nino induced drought which saw the country receiving low to below normal rainfall took its toll on the country’s staple food.

The government is still to come up with its own crop assessment for the 2018/19 season, but projections from farmers put the yield as about half the 2017/18 yield.

Emmanuel Zinyemba who farms in the Raffingora area in Mashonaland West Province told Xinhua Thursday that the situation was so dire in the farming area that not many farmers would realize yields of more than 50 percent.

"The rains stopped when the maize crop was at the critical stage of tasseling and I can say that I will get about 30 percent of the expected yield.

"Most farmers in my area will get between 10 and 50 percent of expected yields because the drought has been severe," he said.

In Mashonaland East Province, Mark Chiriseri of Gabaza Farm, Seke District, said he was lucky to have planted early and as a result had managed to get a decent crop.

"The early crop did well but for those who planted late, it’s a disaster.

"If they do not get any more rains in the next week then the whole crop is a write-off.

"This year is a disaster and I think the government should declare it as such," he said.

Most of Zimbabwe’s smallholder farmers are dependent on rain-fed agriculture.

President of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union Wonder Chabikwa said recently that the country would harvest about 900,000 tons of maize, down from the 1.7 million tons harvested in 2017/2018.

Added to the harvest will be the 500,000 tons in the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve to give 1.4 million tons against a national requirement of 1.8 million tons.

It is estimated that about 5.3 million Zimbabweans will require food aid in 2019 because of the devastating effects of the drought.

The United Nations recently launched an appeal for 234 million U.S. dollars to provide food aid to about 2.2 million Zimbabweans facing hunger during the year.

The appeal was launched following a visit to the country by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.

The UN said about 5.3 million Zimbabweans - nearly a third of the country’s population - would require food aid in 2019 due to the combination of drought and other economic hardships.

UN resident coordinator in Zimbabwe Bishow Parajuli said the UN would only be able to assist only 2.2 million.

The humanitarian and resilience building support would be provided to the needy between January and June 2019, Parajuli said.

Lowcock said the aid will benefit only vulnerable people both in urban and rural areas including the elderly, women and child-headed families.

Donor agencies continue to help mitigate the effects of drought throughout the country.

According to the Famine Early Warning System, the World Food Program and partners in October 2018 reached approximately 184,000 beneficiaries in 10 districts.

Plans are in place to scale up to approximately 1.1 million people in 30 districts during the peak of the lean season of January to March.

The government also has plans to provide assistance in all 60 rural districts.

The drought has also affected the country’s capital city Harare, which in March introduced water rationing to ensure that all suburbs receive water at least two days a week.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Zimbabwe official says almost half of population
face hunger in 2019 due to drought

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- At least 7 million Zimbabweans, or almost half of the country’s population, face hunger this year due to drought and will require food aid, a senior government official said Thursday.

Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare permanent secretary Judith Kateera told a parliamentary committee that the government will strive to provide food relief to citizens as hunger takes its toll on the country, state news agency New Ziana reported.

A survey undertaken by the Food Nutrition Council in January this year revealed the number of people who will be food insecure, Kateera said.

"This year we are looking at about 7 million people, 4.5 million in rural areas and 3 million in urban areas," she said.

The figure is almost half of the country’s population of 16 million people, and the highest ever in recent years of people requiring food aid in the country.

Kateera said the country now has 800,000 tonnes of maize in its strategic grain reserves, more than the mandatory 500,000 tonnes.

Farmer organizations are projecting this year’s maize harvest to be around 900,000 tonnes, down from 1.7 million tons harvested in the 2017/2018 farming season.

The United Nations last week launched a 234 million U.S. dollar aid appeal for Zimbabwe, and estimated that about 5.3 million Zimbabweans will require food aid in 2019 because of the devastating effects of the drought.

"We are sincerely hoping that the gods will do us a favor by making sure we have a good harvest and we beef up our stock because annual demand is around 1.8 million tonnes," Kateera said.
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Zimbabwe fuel consumption declines after price hike: Minister

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has seen a marked decline in fuel consumption over the past two months following an increase in the price of fuel by more than 100 percent.

Both energy minister Joram Gumbo and central bank governor John Mangudya confirmed the development before a parliamentary committee on energy Thursday.

"The change in pricing has also seen some savings that we have noticed of late. Over the past two months, figures have shown that fuel consumption has been going down and we believe that it is because of the price increase," Gumbo said.

Government hiked the price of diesel and petrol by more than 100 percent in January, pushing the price of diesel to 3.11 dollars per liter from 1.24 dollars while petrol rose to 3.34 dollars from 1.37 dollars.

Gumbo said diesel consumption had declined to 3.2 million liters per day from 4.3 million liters in December 2018 while petrol had dipped to 2 million liters per day from 3.3 million liters.

He said the ministry was still assessing the country’s new fuel consumption patterns before it can come up with definite explanations.

The minister said the decline in consumption could also be due to closure of loopholes that could have resulted in smuggling of fuel out of the country and hoarding of fuel for speculative purposes.

Central bank governor John Mangudya said the country imported 208 million liters of both diesel and petrol worth 173 million U.S. dollars in January and February against the required 280 million liters.

The supply gap was due to delays in clearance of letters of credit used to purchase the fuel, hence the shortage of fuel on the market, the governor said.

He, however, said the central bank on Wednesday this week put in place a financing facility that would help to bring sufficient fuel in the country starting this week.

Zimbabwe has been facing shortages of fuel since last year due to a shortage of foreign currency.
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Zimbabwe allows firms, farmers to import own fuel as shortages continue

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe, which is facing fuel shortages due to a shortage of foreign currency, is now allowing big companies and farmers with free funds to import their own fuel.

The government hopes this will ease current shortages in the economy.

"Cabinet has given a green light to large companies such as those in the mining sector to use their funds to import fuel for their use," Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa was quoted as saying by the Herald newspaper on Wednesday.

Energy Minister Joram Gumbo said that except for farmers, other individuals will not be allowed to import fuel on their own.

Zimbabwe has seen a steep rise in fuel consumption over the past year, with diesel consumption shooting from 2 million liters per day in January 2018 to 4.8 million liters per day in December 2018.

During the same period, petrol consumption rose from 1.6 million liters a day to 3 million liters, according to Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority.

The increased fuel consumption has put pressure on the country’s depleted foreign currency reserves, resulting in supply gaps being experienced in the market.

On Monday, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya told parliament that the central bank last year acquired 985 million U.S. dollars in loans from African banks and lenders for the purchase of critical imports such as fuel.
.

International Monetary Fund backs Zimbabwe currency reforms

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Zimbabwe’s currency reforms are a step in the right direction but require to be further supported by market- determined interest and exchange rates to succeed.

IMF director of communications Gerry Rice said in a statement Friday that robust economic reforms were required for Zimbabwe to address a deep macroeconomic imbalance challenge, as well as a broader set of social and economic challenges.

He said that although the IMF does not have a financing program with Zimbabwe, it continues to discuss with Zimbabwean authorities to assist them in implementing economic reforms that are greatly needed to revive the ailing economy.

Rice said the move by the central bank to abandon the prevailing rate of 1:1 between the U.S. dollar and the surrogate bond note and allow the exchange rate to float was a welcome move to address distortions that have impacted on the economy.

"The currency reforms’ success will depend on the implementation of an effective overall monetary policy framework supported by market-determined interest and exchange rates, together with prudent fiscal policies," Rice said.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe two weeks ago introduced the foreign exchange inter-bank market where the local currency, encompassing the Real Time Gross Settlement balances, bond notes and coins will now be traded with the U.S. dollar and other currencies at market rates.

The central bank pegged the opening rate at 2.50 against the U.S. dollar, slightly lower than black market rates of 3.60.

Rice said the IMF will maintain engagement with the struggling southern African country to offer support.

"The IMF is trying to help.

"We’re engaged with them on how we can help them as much as possible."
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FURTHER READING:

United Nations try and raise US $234 million dollars in aid for drought-hit Zimbabwe

 

 

             

 

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