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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Electricity rationed in Zimbabwe
Cutting tobacco leaves in Zimbabwe
Businesses could also be affected by the cuts
Households in Zimbabwe are to be limited to four hours power supply a day in the latest setback to hit the country's struggling economy.

The measure, meaning electricity will only be available in homes between 1700 and 2100 local time, is likely to come into force immediately.

The move is designed to support the country's wheat farmers who need power to irrigate their crops.

Rampant inflation has led to widespread shortages of fuel and food.

The monthly rate of inflation rose to 2,200% in March, the highest in the world.

Farm priority

Critics accuse President Robert Mugabe of presiding over the destruction of the country's economy and society in an effort to hold onto power.

The longer period will drive prices for firewood and candles up
Francis Chakona, Newspaper vendor

But the government says Zimbabwe's economic problems are primarily due to foreign sanctions.

State-owned power firm Zesa Holdings said the restrictions would be in place for the next three months while demand for power is lower than at other times of the year.

Wheat farmers will be guaranteed power for 18 hours in an effort to boost the winter crop.

Zimbabwe is being forced to import maize after a poor harvest which the government blamed on drought conditions.

Power cuts have become a regular occurrence in Zimbabwe, where a shortage of foreign currency has prevented investment in the country's creaking infrastructure.

Key industries such as mining have been affected, putting further strain on the economy.

"This is no way a surprise," newspaper seller Francis Chakona told the Reuters news agency of the rationing move.

"But the longer period will drive prices for firewood and candles up and these items are already quite expensive."

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