(Bloomberg) -- Zambia, in the grips of the worst drought since 1981, isn’t facing a food shortage and won’t 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.

A Southern Africa Development Community report last month forecast 2.3 million Zambians will be food insecure by March, 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 Zambia would have an 888,000-ton cereal deficit.

The government says it has enough corn, the staple food, to last until the next season and won’t need to import.

Retail prices for the corn 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 last year, 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.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Taonga Clifford Mitimingi in Lusaka at tmitimingi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net, Hilton Shone, Helen Nyambura

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