Following the issuance of a warning on Wednesday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network that Zimbabwe could run out of cereals by November if the pace of imports by the government and commercial players is not stepped up, food experts in the country confirmed Thursday that the food security situation is cause for concern.

Agriculture Secretary Renson Gasela of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Arthur Mutambara said projections should take into account growing need in the cities and not only in rural areas that traditionally need help through the hunger season.

The U.S.-based FEWSNET said combined commercial and humanitarian cereal imports must triple from their current rate between now and March 2009 to meet the country?s requirements for the rest of the so-called marketing year ? that is until the next maize harvest starts to come in as of March or April, depending on conditions.

FEWSNET said the Zimbabwean had planned to import at least 600,000 metric tones of maize from South Africa but by late august had only imported 175,000 tonnes.

"At the current rate, Zimbabwe could run out of cereals by November," said a food security alert issued Wednesday by FEWSNET, which is U.S. based and operates under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Spokesman Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while  humanitarian organizations are trying to make up for time lost between June and August when the government banned NGO aid activities, the need for food keeps growing.

Some good news emerged within a generally bleak picture: the European Union said on Thursday that it is providing 10 million euros or some $US15 million to bolster the country's health care, water and sanitation systems in the poorest areas.

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