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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 18:14 GMT
Zimbabwe faces food crisis
No Go Area sign on a maize field
Violence has hampered maize production
By Grant Ferrett in Harare

With its highly organised agricultural sector and generally favourable climate, Zimbabwe has traditionally been a net exporter of food.

But the picture for the year ahead looks very different.

Despite government assurances, there are growing concerns that continued disruption of agriculture as a result of the land redistribution efforts could lead to serious food shortages.


The maize harvest for the coming season could well be down by a third

The Grain Producers' Association has issued an urgent appeal to large-scale farmers to plant as much of the staple crop, maize, as possible, in an effort to alleviate the predicted problems.

Months of illegal invasions of white-owned farms by government supporters have combined with rapidly escalating prices of seeds and fertilisers to produce what the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the FAO, describes as a "gloomy prospect".

Large-scale white farmers have cut back on planting, partly because of stoppages imposed by squatters, and partly because they have been denied the usual bank loans.

Farmer Garry Luke after beating by war veterans
Farmers have endured violence and political turmoil
Small-scale farmers are also likely to produce less, not least because the authorities waited more than six months before paying most of them for last year's produce.

Many of those who have been given land under what the government calls its fast-track resettlement scheme lack the resources and skills to make any meaningful contribution.

The result is that the maize harvest for the coming season could well be down by a third.

But the FAO says its more immediate concern is not with food security but with food access.

Prices have climbed so steeply as a result of the government's economic mismanagement that even basics such as bread are beyond the reach of a rapidly growing number of people.

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21 Dec 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe land seizures 'illegal'
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