Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 15:47 UK

Bumper crop, but Zimbabwe hungry

Zimbabwean woman puts maize into a bag in Domboshawa on 23 April 2008
Zimbabwe has had a bumper maize crop but the hunger crisis remains

Some three million people face hunger in Zimbabwe, despite a significant rise in food production, the UN says.

Good rainfall over the past year has boosted production of the staple crop, maize, by 130% to 1.1m tonnes.

But about 2.8m people will still face food shortages this year, warned the report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme.

They found that Zimbabwe's situation remains critical with basic necessities out of reach for most households.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in Johannesburg (the BBC is banned from Zimbabwe) says that, as so often with Zimbabwe, it is one step forward and two steps back.

The report also forecast the lowest ever harvest of wheat this winter because of high seed prices and electricity shortages.

'Struggling to survive'

"This year's improved harvest comes after two consecutive years of poor production," said the World Food Programme's Jan Delbaere, who worked on the report, reports AP news agency.

"Having depleted their food stocks and sold livestock and other assets to cope with the effects of the recent crises, many rural households are still struggling to survive."

Zimbabwe's vice-president Joyce Mujuru at Zanu-PF headquarters on 19 January 2006 in Harare
Zimbabwe's vice-president pleaded for an international financial stimulus

The warning comes a day after Zimbabwe's vice-president called on the international community to provide her country with a financial stimulus package to offset its economic crisis.

Addressing a gathering of the world's richest and poorest countries at the UN in New York, Joyce Mujuru, a Zanu-PF member, said the lack of external support for Zimbabwe was threatening the unity government's programme.

Also on Wednesday, Zimbabwe launched a public consultation as it prepares to draft a new constitution to pave the way for the next elections.

Plans for the charter were enshrined in February's power-sharing pact between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

In April, parliament elected a 25-member committee, drawn from both parties, to tour the provinces and carry out a consultation on the new constitution.

The draft document is supposed to be introduced in parliament by February next year, with a referendum to be held by July.

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