Pre-Mugabe Zimbabwe was a net exporter of food
International news from swissinfo, the Swiss news platform
: "HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's main opposition party said on Wednesday the country had virtually run out of the staple maize grain and urged President Robert Mugabe's government to launch an appeal for foreign donor aid.
Aid agencies say around 4 million people, a third of the population, will need food aid this year after a poor harvest due to drought and inadequate support to peasants who largely benefited from the government's controversial land reforms.
Renson Gasela, shadow agriculture minister for the Movement for Democratic Change, said the party estimated maize output from the just ended cropping season at about 500,000 tonnes against domestic requirements of 1.8 million tonnes.
Gasela told a news conference the country did not have adequate stocks to see it through to the next harvest and that some districts in drought-prone areas were already out of food.
'In simple terms ... the country has run out of maize and this is a fact,' Gasela added, bemoaning what he called failure by the government to quickly approach international donors.
'A lead time of three months is required to land maize in the country if such maize comes from South America, for example. From South Africa the lead time is two months,' Gasela said, adding that millions of Zimbabweans could not wait that long.
Mugabe has repeatedly denied that his policy of seizing large tracts of white-owned farms to redistribute to blacks has resulted in food shortages."