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Aid Agencies to Distribute Food in Zimbabwe - 2001-10-23

International aid agencies are preparing to distribute emergency food supplies in Zimbabwe. They are warning that parts of the country could run out of grain before the end of the year.

Aid agencies, including Care International, Oxfam International and World Vision International, are planning to distribute grain in parts of southern Zimbabwe.

The staple food in most of Zimbabwe is corn, also known as maize. The U.S.-based Famine Early Warning System recently reported that Zimbabwe's maize stocks have dwindled to the point that the country will not be able to meet its basic needs after next month. The agency recommends the government import 200,000 tons of the grain, which it says should last through March.

There are several factors contributing to the shortage. The Matabeleland and Midlands regions in southern Zimbabwe were hit by a drought last year. The Commercial Farmers Union says farm occupations have also interfered with farmers' ability to produce the grain.

Last week, Lands and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made hotly denied that the farm occupations have disrupted production. He told state television the mostly-white farmers' union is trying to advance its own agenda, in opposition to the country's controversial land-reform program.

But in an address to Parliament earlier this year, Finance Minister Simba Makoni admitted that Zimbabwe would need to import grain to make up for shortfalls in production.