Zimbabwe declares drought a disaster, joining Malawi and Zambia

Zimbabwe’s president declared a state of national disaster over a drought that’s curbed farm output in the southern African nation.

The announcement follows similar declarations last month in neighbouring Zambia and Malawi, where poor rainfall has cut production of the staple corn and other grains and contributed to higher food prices that have hurt poor households. The El Niño weather phenomenon resulted in swathes of southern African experiencing its driest February in decades this year.

“More than 80% of the country received below normal rainfall. Our nation faces a food cereal deficit,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday. “This deficit will be supplemented by imports.” The country will need $2 billion to mitigate the impact of the drought, he added.

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Zimbabwe has lost 12% of planted farmland corn due to the dry spell, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. The country consumes 2.2 million tons of grain annually, with 1.8 million tons used for food and 400 000 tons used for livestock feed.

Plans to export surplus corn and wheat from past harvests to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been halted, said Mnangagwa. That would have been the first corn exports by Zimbabwe since 2001.

Neighbouring South Africa has warned it may be forced to import corn for the first time since 2017 because of the drought.

© 2024 Bloomberg

Roy Walsh

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