Food stocks in most rural households in Zimbabwe will be depleted by early October, warned the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWSNET, on Tuesday.

The organization, operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, blamed the impending food shortages on poor harvests and limited access to hard currency among rural dwellers to buy maize meal and other Zimbabwean staple foods.

But FEWSNET said the situation in the cities is more better because foods imports have risen this year, a situation likely to continue through the end of 2009.

The food security monitoring unit said that although the 2009 maize harvest showed some improvement over 2008, Zimbabwe faces a potential shortfall in cereals of some 500,000 metric tonnes. Winter wheat production is seen meeting just 8% of requirements.

National Director Forbes Matonga of Christian Care, a main distribution agent for the U.N. World Food Program, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that food aid is likely to be reduced from last year's levels due to insufficient donor support and poor data on need, adding that he sees more problems than FEWSNET in urban zones.

World Food Program spokesman Richard Lee said his agency will conduct an assessment of food needs in rural areas in the weeks ahead to inform its relief initiatives. 

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...