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July 05, 2010

Zimbabwe moves to cut off agro-imports from South Africa

by Moses Mudzwiti

The Zimbabwean government is moving to cut off agricultural imports from South Africa, saying it wants to protect its farmers.

Joseph Made, the minister of agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation development, was quoted in state media as saying: "There is no way we should import tomatoes when the produce is flooding and rotting at Mbare Musika [a huge fruit and vegetable market in Harare]."

South African tomato growers can expect increasing difficulty in selling their produce in Zimbabwe. Dairy and meat imports have already been limited to almost nothing. The curbs have led to food prices rising by as much as 6% in recent months.

Made said: "Agricultural imports are threatening local farmers. We should ensure fair trade and it is critical that we support our farmers.

"We will have to carry out a thorough assessment before issuing import permits. We would want a detailed study and [would] only issue permits [to those] exhausting all details .

"We are not putting a ban on imports, but surely we cannot import when we have so many beneficiaries of the land reform programme who have the capacity to produce and feed the nation?" he said.

While Made did not mention the countries whose imports were being targeted, local supermarkets were clearly running out of South African poultry, eggs and dairy products.

Zimbabwe became a lucrative market after it introduced multi-currency trade, but political sentiment has not favoured South African businesses.

Political grumbling about the lack of business from the Fifa World Cup in has been growing louder.


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