Witnesses said that the crowd ripped the stolen bags open to stuff the uncooked cereal into their mouths
"I have never seen anything like this in my life," said a rancher from southern Zimbabwe. "I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams I would ever see Zimbabweans so hungry.
"Piles of bags of maize meal were on both sides of the road and people from all over the district came streaming in and I saw some breaking open the bags and eating it raw.
"Then it started to rain so it will go rotten, but people will eat it anyway. The world must know people are starving here."
More than five million Zimbabweans, almost half the population, are expected to need food aid by the end of the year, but the World Food Programme said this week that it was having to cut the rations it distributes because of a lack of funding.
There is an unprecedented shortage of locally grown and imported food in Zimbabwe, which was a regional breadbasket until President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms eight years ago.
A businessman in eastern Zimbabwe said: "There is not a grain of maize meal around here. I had to rush to Mozambique earlier this week to get some for my workers or they will starve. There is a huge tragedy going on in this country."
The Commercial Farmers’ Union, which has the most accurate crop forecasts available, said the present summer season in Zimbabwe will be the worst ever. Trevor Grai, the CFU president, said that he is "extremely worried" about food production.
"There isn’t enough seed nor fertiliser and it is going to be the worst season ever for food production."
Cereal imports are controlled by the state’s Grain Marketing Board, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has tried to import food for hungry supporters several times but has had its grain confiscated or refused entry.