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Government Claims Zimbabwe Importing Grain to Prevent Food Shortage

Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe, along with other southern African countries, is experiencing a drought-induced food shortage. But the government insists it has the money to import enough grain to feed its people.

A Zimbabwean government official said the country will import close to two million tons of the staple maize from neighboring countries.

Speaking on state-controlled radio, the head of the government's grain-procurement authority, Samuel Muvuti, did not clarify whether the grain is already in the country. The government recently announced it had allocated a substantial amount of money to import food.

Earlier this year, President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabwe was not going to appeal for food aid because it had enough money to import an adequate amount of food. He said Zimbabwe will accept assistance from those willing to give it. The government stopped general food distribution last year claiming a bumper corn harvest.

But a World Food Program (WFP) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA they are still feeding about one million Zimbabweans. And, the agency expects the number to rise to more than four million. The government puts the number of people needing food assistance at just over one million.

The official said because of successive bad harvests many people have sold all their assets, such as livestock, to use the money to buy food.

According to the official, general food distribution is not going to resume unless the government appeals for food aid. The World Food Program has not received such an appeal, but the official said it is appealing to donors to scale up its current program.

International aid agencies also blame the food shortage on Mr. Mugabe's sometimes-violent land reform program launched in 2000. The president has admitted that some of his top officials abused the exercise and ended up with more than one farm and that some of them are not producing to capacity.