Zimbabwe Scrambles for Food Aid as El Niño Drought Devastates Crops

Millions Face Hunger as Government Reallocates Budget for Grain Imports

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe is facing a critical food security crisis due to its worst drought in over four decades, fueled by the El Niño weather phenomenon. The government is scrambling to secure grain imports and international aid to address the hunger crisis impacting millions of citizens.

Budget Re-Allocation to Prioritize Food Security

In response to the devastating drought, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, announced a reallocation of resources within the 2024 national budget. During a review of the Monetary Policy Statement with a parliamentary committee, Ncube explained that funds originally allocated to other sectors would be redirected to finance essential grain imports. He emphasized the need to prioritize food security, stating, “We are going to use unallocated resources from other departments for the funds we need.” Issuing a supplementary budget, according to Ncube, would risk exacerbating inflation in the long run.

The El Niño-induced drought has had a crippling effect on Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. A staggering 75% of crops have failed, leaving the nation with a significant grain deficit. President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the drought a national disaster in April 2024, estimating that over $2 billion is required to import essential grain supplies. The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has revealed the necessity of sourcing grain from distant countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, highlighting the severity of the situation.

Over 2.7 Million Zimbabweans Food Insecure

The drought’s impact is being felt acutely by millions of Zimbabweans. According to estimates, over 2.7 million people are currently experiencing food insecurity.  However, the government has extended a plea for international support to address this growing humanitarian crisis.  Also, Minister Ncube acknowledged the limitations of government planning, stating, “We did not know how deep the drought was.”  In addition, he expressed hope for financial assistance from international institutions and partners to bolster the national response.

Despite the urgent need for additional resources, Ncube pledged to maintain fiscal discipline. He assured the parliamentary committee that the government would avoid issuing a supplementary budget and instead work within the originally planned ZW$59 trillion national budget (converted to the new ZiG currency). Ncube emphasized that the reallocation of funds would not destabilize the ZiG currency, stating, “Re-allocation of the budget would not have an impact on the ZiG as the exchange rate and inflation would remain neutral.”

Beyond Budget Reallocation: Exploring Additional Solutions

The government is exploring a multi-pronged approach to address the food security crisis. In addition to budget reallocation for grain imports, other strategies include:

  • Drought Insurance: While payouts from existing drought insurance policies are considered inadequate, they may offer some level of financial relief.
  • Private Sector Grain Imports: The government is encouraging private sector actors to participate in grain importation efforts to supplement public sector initiatives.
  • International Support: Zimbabwe is actively seeking humanitarian aid and financial assistance from international partners to bolster its response to the crisis.

The government’s commitment to fiscal discipline is evident in its adherence to the tight monetary policy that has contributed to currency stability. However, the success of this policy may be overshadowed by the immediate threat of widespread hunger.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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