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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 13:19 GMT
Zimbabwe 'faces food shortages'
Baby receiving food aid
More food aid is needed, according to new predictions
Zimbabwe MPs have warned the country is set to run out of food before next year's harvest.

The government previously predicted there would be a bumper maize harvest of 2.4 million tons in 2005.

But parliamentary group head Daniel Ncube, who is also a ruling party member, said Zimbabweans are on target to consume more food than is stored.

The country will at most have about 500,000 tonnes by the end of the year and some of that is imported, he said.

"The country, therefore, is likely to stock out before the next harvest in 2005," he said.

Farm production has drastically fallen in Zimbabwe since land seizures of white-owned farmland began in 2000, with more than five million people receiving food aid last year.

Critics say few of the black beneficiaries are producing crops due to lack of capital and expertise.

Lives at stake

The warning comes as the latest report by the watchdog, Famine Early Warning Systems Network, says original estimates that 2.2 million rural Zimbabweans will need food aid soon should be revised upwards.

The organisation says rising maize prices are putting the commodity out of the reach of many.

There are people who are going short of food today, and have been this entire year
David Coltart, MP

Zimbabwe's Social Welfare Minister Paul Mangwana has described the report as "alarmist" and promised his ministry would "ensure that no one starves".

The parliamentary committee, which includes MPs from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has said the government's forecast did not tally with deliveries made so far to the state-run Grain Marketing Board.

President Mugabe
But the government says there is no problem
Mr Ncube said current deliveries to the GMB amounted to 388,558 tons - much less than the 2.4 tons the board is expecting to receive.

He said the government's explanation that farmers were holding onto their crops was an "uncomfortable assumption".

"Should the assumption prove not to be strictly true... this will plunge the country into a serious crisis," he said.

Opposition MP David Coltart said the situation in his constituency Bulawayo South was serious.

"There are people who are going short of food today, and have been this entire year," he said.

"The lives of poor Zimbabweans are at stake. Our country urgently requires food aid on a massive scale."

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has also warned of food shortages in Zimbabwe.

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