Over 1million people face hunger in Zim

ROME - Food security in Zimbabwe had improved significantly but some 1,68million people would still need assistance next year, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said yesterday.

The report is based on a June mission to Zimbabwe by FAO and another Rome-based UN agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), to assess the national crop and food security situation in the southern African nation.

The report found that government efforts and a $70million (R506 million) international aid programme providing farmers with subsidised input had boosted agricultural production.

The area planted under maize, Zimbabwe's main staple, increased by 20per cent this year to the highest level in 30 years and production rose 7percent over last year, the mission found.

Compared with thepoor 2008 season when less than 500000 tons of maize was harvested, production more than doubled last year and this year to 1,27 and 1,35million tons respectively.

"The generous international support ... significantly contributed to this year's relatively good harvest results, even if in some areas of the country rainfall distribution was uneven," said FAO's emergency and rehabilitation operations in Africa chief, Cristina Amaral.

The mission estimated that about 133000 tons of food assistance would be needed to feed about 1,68million Zimbabweans this year to next year.

The report said general poverty and chronic food insecurity had led to reduced diversity of consumption and had also contributed to an increased prevalence of chronic malnutrition among young children.

Prices remain comparatively high for families with low incomes and little or no access to US dollars or SA rands according to the WFP's Jan Delbaere, co-author of the report.

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