HARARE, March 17 — The Zimbabwe government has received 5,400 tonnes of rice from China to alleviate food shortages that the country is facing.

The consignment, worth more than 8.0 million US dollars, comes under the mega deals which President Robert Mugabe signed last year during a State visit to China which will see the Asian country providing critical financial support needed to rescue Zimbabwe’s declining economy.

Under several agreements signed during the visit, the Asian giant pledged to support Zimbabwe’s key economic areas among them energy, roads, railways, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism.

Speaking at the handover of the rice aid here Monday, Zimbabwean Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira commended China for assisting Zimbabwe at a time it was experiencing economic hardships.

Mupfumira said the rice would be distributed to registered institutions accommodating vulnerable children, older persons, people with disabilities and also poor families around the country.

“Whenever there are economic difficulties, the worst affected are the vulnerable and marginalized communities. These form a sizable clientele for my Ministry. It is the state’s responsibility through the Social Welfare Assistance Act to ensure that the vulnerable and ultra-poor households receive social protection services and possibly devise mechanisms that prevent them from plunging back into poverty,” she said.

She said 100 tonnes of rice would be distributed to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to ease the food challenges facing prisoners. Three prisoners died and several others were injured on Friday during a riot over poor food at the Chikurubi Maximum Security prison.

The Charge d’Affaires at the chinese Embassy here, Cui Chun, said his country was committed to supporting Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector in its efforts to increase food production and attain food security.

“The China-Zimbabwe cooperation in the area of agriculture is so successful that tobacco and cotton, as well as other agriculture products, now account for almost 80 per cent of Zimbabwe’s export to China, which contributes greatly to the revival of agriculture in the country,” he said.

Cui said more than 1.5 billion USD worth of concessionary and commercial loans had been provided to Zimbabwe in the past years.