Zimbabwe: Food crisis looms as Agricultural budget dips and land invasions continue

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Another crippling hunger is looming in the southern Africa country with reports that a majority of the country’s large-scale producing White commercial farmers are unable to plant crops due to ongoing disturbances on farms. The mainly white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said the majority of its members were yet to plant crops for the forthcoming 2009/10 season. They blame farm invasions that have continued despite the formation of a coalition government nine months ago.

CFU president Deon Theron said a recent surge in violence against the few remaining Zimbabwean commercial farmers was cause for concern both for food security in Zimbabwe and for the region. “Owing to the ongoing violations of commercial farmers and their workers, the prosecution threats and lack of security of tenure, the
majority of commercial farmers will not be able to plant crops this season,” the CFU chief said.

79 year-old farmer kicked out

Meanwhile, a 79-year-old White farmer is due to appear in a Zimbabwean court on Thursday on claims that she disobeyed a court order two weeks ago to vacate her farm. Hester Theron has been living on the 2 000 hectare farm near Beatrice, situated south of Harare since 1957. She faces six months in prison if she fails to leave the farm.

Theron was found guilty of illegally occupying the prize farm, Friedenthal Farm, since 2007. Hester Theron said she expected that the court would finally order her to leave the farm. “I will have to go and stay in Harare, but I will take everything. I will leave them nothing!” Apart from a large diary, houses, buildings and other huge improvements were added over the years, including a permanent irrigation system.

President Mugabe recently said the land grabs that drove thousands of White farmers and their Black workers off the land in Zimbabwe over the past decade were the “best thing that could have ever have happened to an African country”.

A huge gap

Agricultural production has plunged since the year 2000 when Mugabe began seizing White-owned commercial farms for redistribution to Black farmers deprived of land under previous white minority governments. For example an estimated tonnage of the staple maize crop for the 2009/10 season was just 500 000 metric tonnes, down from more than two million tones at the beginning of Mugabe’s controversial land reform
programme in 2000.

Agricultural permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka says government has managed to raise only US$5.7 million out of $48 million it had planned to use to fund agricultural production this season. “Only US$5.7 million out of a total provision of US$48 million having been released as at 30 September 2009,” Masoka told Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture.

He added: “A total of 1 200 000 tonnes of fertiliser were required for the 2009/2010 season. To date only 44 percent has been mobilised through private sector partnerships and donor assistance, leaving a huge gap which will adversely impact on productivity.”

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