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UN Says 1.6 Million Zimbabweans Need Food Aid This Year

July 27 (Bloomberg) -- About 1.6 million Zimbabweans need food assistance this year, 60 percent more than a year ago, as the country’s cereal harvest fell to the lowest since 2009, the United Nations World Food Programme said.

This year’s crop was 1.08 million metric tons, a third less than last year, the Rome-based agency said in an e-mailed statement today. Reasons for the decline include erratic rainfall, reduced plantings and poor farming practices, it said.

“Our field staff are already reporting signs of distress in rural areas, including empty granaries and farmers selling their livestock,” Felix Bamezon, the WFP country director for Zimbabwe, said in the statement.

Zimbabwe’s southern and western provinces experienced drought during the rainy season from November to April.

“We had only four inches of rain here, which killed even drought-resistant crops and left us looking like a desert,” Sitha Mpofu, a small-scale farmer and retailer, said in a phone interview today from Beitbridge on the southern border with South Africa. The area usually receives about 12 inches of rain annually, compared with 30 inches in the northern and eastern provinces, he said.

While rains in the southern African nation’s main food-producing Highveld districts were average they came late, Mark Edwards, a Harare-based agronomist, said in a telephone interview today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at blatham@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gordon Bell at gbell16@bloomberg.net

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