Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: White farmers forced to abandon wheat crop

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HARARE - About twenty more white farmers have been ordered to cease operations in Zimbabwe dealing a heavy blow to winter wheat farming at a time when the southern African country is facing severe shortages of wheat.

In a document presented to Parliament's portfolio committee on land and agriculture on Tuesday, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said Zimbabwe faced severe shortages of wheat because of continuing disturbances on commercial farms.

The document titled, "CFU Submissions on the State of Preparedness for Winter Production," said the disturbances were mostly prevalent in the Karoi farming district in Mashonaland West province.

"Twenty to thirty farmers have not been allowed to plant or have been forced to abandon their crops.

"Initially, commercial farmers intended growing 10 000 ha of wheat in 2007 but the disruptions on the farms, and the lack of security of tenure and water has reduced the potential area to be planted by another 3 000 ha," said the CFU.

Between 400 and 600 white farmers are still on their properties out of about 4 000 who were farming in Zimbabwe before President Robert Mugabe embarked on a controversial land redistribution programme seven years ago.

Zimbabwe, which is battling its worst ever economic crisis, has since 2000 relied on food handouts from international food agencies mainly due to failure by new black farmers to maintain production on former white farms.

One of the evicted farmers who refused to be named told ZimOnline yesterday that they were still negotiating with government officials to stop further evictions in around the country.

"They want to evict all of us but we are trying to find ways so that we can continue working on the farms," he said.

State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is also in charge of the government's land reform programme was not immediately available for comment on the farmers statement.

But Mutasa has in the past warned that the government would continue to evict white farmers to make way for landless blacks.