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Early But Uneven Zimbabwe Rains Bode Disappointing Maize Harvest

The U.S.-based Famine Early Warning System issued a warning this week saying that despite an early start to Zimbabwe's rainy season the maize crop may turn out "below average" because rains were unevenly distributed and may not last the season.

"Rains began up to six weeks early, before many farmers were prepared for planting," FEWSNET said. "In some areas, the early start (of rains) was a false one, followed by dry periods of up to 20 days, and farmers had to wait for rains to resume in order to replant." The organization said rainfall "was not well timed or well distributed," and added that the forecast for the remainder of the season "is not favorable."

FEWSNET also said the winter wheat crop harvest, after being delayed by shortages of fuel and the early rains, could fall short of expectations. It said the wheat harvest probably wouldn't exceed 135,000 metric tonnes, and that Zimbabwe thus might be obliged to import some 265,000 tonnes to meet its annual requirements.

The food security monitoring organization said some 1.4 million Zimbabweans living in rural areas were in a situation of food insecurity during the current "hunger season," while many living in the cities cannot afford maize meal though it is available.

Agriculture spokesman Renson Gasela of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the food crisis is only likely to deepen this year.

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