With only a few weeks to the end of this year's rainy season, some Southern African countries have received only a fraction of their usual rainfall which is particularly bad news for Zimbabwe.
Crops in most parts of Zimbabwe are wilting under extreme heat as rains have been erratic. There does not appear to be any respite in sight as the Southern African Development Community Drought Monitoring Center forecasts below-normal rainfall in the region between March and May.
In its latest report the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network says in the main cereal producing areas of Zimbabwe the reproductive stages of the crops coincided with a prolonged dry spell earlier this year. As a result, the report says, not much is expected from these areas.
The worst affected crop is the country's staple food, corn. A Famine Early Warning Systems Network official, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, said it is clear parts of the country will need food aid as a result of the anticipated poor harvest.
A Zimbabwe Commercial Farmer's Union spokesperson, also speaking on condition of anonymity, says because of the rainfall situation the national harvest might be less than half the 1.8 million tons of corn the country consumes per year.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union President Davison Mugabe told the independent Sunday newspaper, The Standard, that most of the southern part of the country was the worst hit. He said crops in other parts of the country may recover only if it rains "in the next few days." The government crop assessment teams are still to publish the results of their field surveys.
Zimbabwe, which has received food aid since 2001 because of successive droughts, last year asked donor agencies to stop distributing food aid saying it had a 'bumper harvest'. Donor agencies have also blamed President Robert Mugabe's chaotic and sometimes violent land-reform exercise launched in 2000 for the country's food crisis.
Despite the claims of food self sufficiency, the government has not denied it is importing food from neighboring South Africa and Zambia. But a Zambian embassy official in Harare told VOA that Zambia has, since earlier this month, stopped all exports of its surplus corn because of the bad rainfall situation prevailing in that country as well.