Posted on July 2, 2010 | Category: Politics; Business, Sport
SW Radio Africa News
While farms that were once highly productive lie idle under the new ownership of ZANU-PF officials and cronies, Zimbabwe is in the process of negotiating a deal to import maize from neighboring Zambia. The tragic irony is that the crops being sought after were grown by white farmers who were illegally booted off their land in Zimbabwe. Many wound up in neighboring countries, which are now benefiting from their expertise.
Zambia used to import maize and other food items from Zimbabwe, but with the influx of some of Zimbabwe’s best farmers, they’ve once again produced a surplus maize crop. Zimbabwe on the other hand has recorded a deficit of 500,000 tonnes of the daily food staple this year.
Chiredzi based farmer Gerry Whitehead described the whole situation as “disgusting”. He said: “Approximately 90% of these Zambian crops are coming from ex-Zimbabwean farmers who were forced off their land here.”
Sipula Kabanje, Zambia’s high commissioner to Zimbabwe, confirmed in reports that the negotiations with Zimbabwe were going on through Zambia’s maize agent, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA). He said Zimbabwe also wants to import other food items like wheat, beef and dairy products from Zambia.
Whitehead explained that many farms in Zimbabwe are producing nothing at all. He said: “I have travelled quite a bit in Zimbabwe on business and you can see the land is lying idle. I mean you drive between here and Harare and it’s hundreds of kilometers of idle land, nothing.”
The farmer also told us that there has been no maintenance at the power stations at Hwange and Kariba, leading to a chronic shortage of power. Because of this the few farms that are still producing food are having difficulty pumping water for irrigation.
Whitehead added that many of the new farm owners need agricultural training and financial management advice. Then there are the many who have no intention of being farmers. He said; “They end up buying new cars and more houses in town and that’s it. It is happening here in Chiredzi”. Meanwhile the Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Made, was on Wednesday quoted in local state media as saying Zimbabwe should cut imports from South Africa. He said: “Agricultural imports are threatening local farmers. We should ensure fair trade and it is critical that we support our farmers.”
Made reportedly complained that we should not be importing tomatoes from South Africa when there are many “flooding and rotting at Mbare Musika”, the market in Harare.
Whitehead dismissed Made’s comments, saying: “You can’t cut imports from South Africa, that’s impossible. We will never be able to do that. It is just talk.”
The Zimbabwe government has already limited dairy and meat imports from South Africa to almost nothing and local supermarkets have seen a sharp decline in the availability of chickens, eggs and dairy products. This has created a 6 percent increase in food prices in the last few months.
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