Zimbabwe: Government ministers predict more food shortages next year

HARARE - Zimbabwe could again fail to produce enough food during the 2006/07 season unless adequate measures are put in place to address projected input shortages and clear the air over land tenure of newly resettled farmers.

These revelations were made by ministers Didymus Mutasa, Joseph Made and Munacho Mutezo during a Wednesday public hearing in Harare by the parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform, water and infrastructural development.

The three ministers are responsible for land reform, agriculture, and water and infrastructural development, respectively. They were grilled by the parliamentary committee on the continued decline in Zimbabwe's agricultural production at a time when a lot of money was being pumped by the government into the sector.

Made admitted that Zimbabwe could again face "serious fertilizer shortages" due to a breakdown at one of the country's major producers of the commodity.

Zimbabwe has over the years experienced shortages of fertilizer and other inputs due to a crippling foreign currency crisis.

Earlier this year, the government unsuccessfully attempted to nationalise the fertilizer industry, accusing players in the sector of sabotaging its land reform programme by deliberately under-supplying the market.

Mutezo told the portfolio committee that the country would experience problems in meeting tillage requirements due to the shortage of diesel.

Mutasa revealed that one of the issues hampering production was "outstanding land issues such as the security of tenure" on farms allocated to new farmers.

Most of the newly resettled farmers cannot borrow money from financial institutions because they do not have title deeds.

The land reform programme has been dogged by administrative problems, with some farmers already allocated land by Mutasa's ministry finding themselves being removed by the same ministry, casting a cloud of insecurity among most newly resettled farmers.