Society - Southern Africa - Zimbabwe - Agriculture - Governance
Zimbabwe: Mugabe lambasts Black farmers
Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler, President Robert Mugabe on Sunday stunned black farmers as he questioned their agriculture skills saying the current new crop of farmers would not restore the country’s status as a bread basket.

The 86 year old President Robert Mugabe says Black Zimbabwean farmers are of mediocre quality.

Mugabe’s supporters seized white-owned commercial farms, most of them violently, in 2000 saying this was meant to redress nearly a century of skewed land imbalances but the drive was blamed for plunging agriculture production by at least 60 percent and fanning food shortages.

Majority of black farmers who grabbed farms have little to no skills to till the land while most of them failed to access badly needed inputs like seed and fertiliser, which has contributed to vast tracts of land lying idle.

Zimbabwe has struggled to feed itself in the past decade and agriculture plumbed new depths in 2008 when farmers produced 500,000 tonnes of the staple maize against national requirements of 2 million tonnes.

Said Mugabe at the Zimbabwe Agriculture Show, “As we celebrate the 100 years of exhibition excellence in our 30th year of independence, we should ask ourselves whether we have produced the quality of farmers that we desire,”

“The supply of agriculture inputs remains a major challenge. We need to overcome the perennial programme of failing to provide inputs on time as we also need to seriously address the credit lines from banks and agro industry plus the high cost of borrowing.”

Mugabe claimed that lack of financial support to farmers remained a sore challenge, which left most farmers feeling abandoned by the government.

Once a regional bread basket, Zimbabwe has failed to feed itself since 2000 following Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned commercial farms for black resettlement, leading to sharp falls in production. Most people in the rural areas are heavily dependent on hand outs from international humanitarian groups.

The octogenarian said that despite the mid-season drought the combined cereal and small grains during the 2009/2010 season had risen to more than 1.5 million tonnes and put the national requirement at 1.7 million tonnes.

“Several questions need to be answered to strengthen our farmers. Our farmers have increasingly felt abandoned when after harvesting they find that the market and the producer price on offer do not seem to quite acknowledge the hard work and higher that preceded crop production,” Mugabe said.

A report released by United Nations agencies early August said nearly 1,7 million Zimbabweans will require food assistance in the 2010/11 season despite the recent recovery of the country’s troubled agriculture sector.

Agriculture reached new lows in 2008 when farmers produced just 500 000 tonnes of the maize against national requirements of two million tonnes.

Zimbabwe discarded the use of its worthless dollar last year after inflation reached 500-billion percent and adopted the South African Rand and the U.S. Dollar among others. However, few US dollars or S.A. rands circulate in rural areas.

The UN report said general poverty and food insecurity had contributed to increased prevalence of chronic malnutrition in young children.


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