Maize. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Maize. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Lusaka — Zambia, in the grips of its worst drought since 1981, is not facing a food shortage and will not declare the situation a national emergency, a government official said.

“That is begging,” Chanda Kasolo, the permanent secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting services, said in comments broadcast on privately owned Hot FM radio.

“We are a proud nation,” he added, referring to calls to declare a food emergency and allow donors to provide assistance.

An SA Development Community (Sadc) report in July forecast that 2.3-million Zambians would be food insecure by March 2020, after large parts of the southern and western areas of the country received the lowest rainfall since at least 1981.

Over the same period, the report forecast that Zambia would have an 888,000-tonne cereal deficit.

The government says it has enough maize, the staple food, to last until the next season and will not need to import.

Retail prices for the maize flour that Zambians consume at most meals are already the highest since at least 2003, according to data from the national statistics agency. In July, prices were 41% higher than the same time in 2018, helping to push inflation to 8.8% — the highest since November 2016.

“It can’t be a disaster now,” Kasolo said. “It’s not like it’s countrywide.”