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3-Food: Update on food situation in Zambia

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Higher Zambian winter maize crop finds few buyers
SOURCE: Reuters, by Shapi Shacinda
DATE:   Apr 23, 2003

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Higher Zambian winter maize crop finds few buyers

LUSAKA, April 23 (Reuters) - Zambia's farmers have harvested 55,000
tonnes of winter maize, up from 25,000 tonnes last year, and are having
trouble selling on a market overflowing with imports, the head of the
country's commercial farmers union said on Wednesday. The government
began encouraging imports to plug a 630,000-tonne maize deficit last year
that prompted the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) to declare that a
quarter of the population was in need of food aid. But farmers now say
the country will produce a surplus in 2002/03, and no more imports are
needed. Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) executive director Songowayo
Zyambo said in a statement that there was enough maize in Zambia to fill
the country's needs, and that millers were not buying the home-grown
cereal because they had already imported maize from elsewhere. "(The)
Zambia National Farmers Union can confidently state that the food crisis
is over and maize importation programmes must stop now," Zyambo said .
"Continuing to import (maize) will be a waste of government resources,"
Zyambo said. "The situation on the ground is that there is enough maize,
both imported and local maize. The unfortunate development is that early
(winter) maize farmers have found themselves with no good market because
millers are claiming to have enough stocks." Zambia is one of six
southern African countries affected by a regional food crisis thought at
its peak earlier this year to have affected more than 14 million people.
The WFP has since scaled back its relief operations but says it is
continuing to monitor the situation in the affected countries of
Mozambique , Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, as well as Zambia.
Zyambo did not give crop estimates for the 2002/2003 season but said the
production was generally expected to be good. In March, former ZNFU
president Ajay Vashee told Reuters that Zambia expected to harvest about
one million tonnes of maize for the 2002/03 season, a harvest he said
would exceed domestic needs by about 100,000 tonnes. Zyambo said if the
government did not purchase the maize between April and May, the farmers
would have no incentives to produce winter maize, although the WFP has
said it will buy Zambian maize to feed the region if a surplus is produced.

                                   PART II
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TITLE:  World Bank loan to boost agricultural production
DATE:   Apr 23, 2003

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ZAMBIA: World Bank loan to boost agricultural production

JOHANNESBURG, 23 Apr 2003 (IRIN) - A recent US $50 million World Bank
assistance package to Zambia is expected to improve agricultural
production and strengthen the government's early warning and disaster
management systems, officials said on Wednesday.

"The funds are intended to bring relief to the most vulnerable affected
by the recent drought. Overall, the funds will assist in building the
country's ability to avert such crises in future," World Bank
agricultural specialist in Zambia, Alex Mwanakasale, told IRIN.

Drought conditions and poor harvests for the second year in a row have
led to severe food shortages directly affecting about 2.9 million Zambians.

The World Bank package consists of a US $20 million grant and US $30
million in credit.

Mwanakasale said the assistance would fund critical imports, thereby
protecting essential social spending on education and health programmes.

"Although the funds will go toward developing the agricultural sector,
the main objective is to support government's measures to mitigate the
impact of the drought. These include supporting health and sanitation
services, providing support to keep children in school and protecting the
threatened livestock population," he added.

National coordinator of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit,
Jones Mwanza, told IRIN: "Subsistence farmers were severely hit by the
poor harvest. We also found that the coping mechanisms of the urban poor
had deteriorated. People who were previously just getting by can no
longer afford food. This money will hopefully assist farmers hit by
drought to restore productive capacity."

Mwanza added that the money would go toward the construction of bridges
and the rehabilitation of feeder roads into rural areas. Eight of the
total of 35 bridges to be constructed throughout the country would be in
Lusaka Province, and up to 120 small-scale farmers would also benefit
from the loan facility.

"With this aid the government can make a commitment to improve safety
nets among vulnerable populations across the country. This will be done
by expanding the public works programmes under ongoing projects such as
the Road Sector Investment Programme," Mwanza said.