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Drought caught us off-guard, govt admits

Local News
GOVERNMENT has admitted that the El Niño-induced drought currently ravaging southern African caught them off guard.

GOVERNMENT has admitted that the El Niño-induced drought currently ravaging southern African caught them off guard.

Appearing yesterday before the joint Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance and Industry and Commerce, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said this will force the government to rearrange the 2024 National Budget by diverting funds from other budget votes to cover food imports to avert hunger.

The El Niño-induced drought has affected the southern African region where some countries have banned maize exports.

President Emmerson Mnangwa has since declared the drought a state of national disaster with the government seeking to raise US$2 billion to feed more seven million food insecure citizens.

“We didn’t know how deep the drought was,” said Ncube.

“So, the element of surprise is in there, that it must be much deeper than the result.

“And, therefore, the need for some kind of reallocation is necessary to deal with that extra unforeseen expenditure. Yes, this is a back pocket in terms of the unallocated reserves.

“We may even think about borrowing here and there, although I’m not too worried because we are already at a level where we can serve successfully in terms of external debt.

“We have to provide a way out of the drought and at the same time compromise. Government is going to re-allocate resources from other budget items to support grain imports. With our response to the drought we have implemented several things; we have opened your borders to allow imports for the private sector.”

He said there was also an unexpected underperformance in agriculture.

“I don’t know if anyone knew that there was going to be a 70% crop rip-off in terms of maize,” he said.

However, several non-governmental organisation and United Nations agencies warned the country about  the impending food insecurity situation, indicating that close to seven million Zimbabwe would require food aid in 2024.

According to FewsNet, the USAid’s food security arm, the 2024 harvest is expected to be poor and the food situation would be worsened by high food prices.

Zambia and Malawi have also described the drought as national disasters with President Hakainde Hichilema saying the country’s agricultural sector has been devastated leaving more than one million families requiring food aid.

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