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August 02, 2011

Zimbabwe lost equivalent of $12 billion of produce due to land seizures

by Brian Latham

Zimbabwe lost about $12 billion in agricultural output in the 10 years through 2009 after the government seized commercial farms from whites, the country’s Commercial Farmers’ Union said.

Total agricultural production based on today’s prices declined to 1.35 million metric tons, or $1 billion, in 2009 from 4.3 million metric tons valued at $3.5 billion in 2000, the Harare-based group said.

“If the aim of land reform was to evict whites and replace them with blacks, then it can be deemed a success,” CFU President Deon Theron said in an annual report on the union’s website. “However, if the aim was to benefit the majority and not only a chosen few, then it has been a failure.”

Theron said that the majority of land seized from white farmers had been given to politicians, senior members of the security forces, judges, civil servants and so-called veterans of the war against white-minority rule. Only 1.8 percent of the former workers on the commercial farms and their families received land under the program, according to the CFU.

“President Robert Mugabe and his family ‘own’ 39 farms,” said Theron, who listed six members of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party with more than five farms in their families.

Not all studies have shown the land seizures to be a failure.

In the Masvingo province, two-thirds of the land went to low-income Zimbabweans, while only 5 percent went to people linked to the “political-military-security elite,” according to a study by Ian Scoones at the U.K.’s Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University.

Maize production fell to 1.2 million metric tons this year from 2.04 million tons in 2000, while wheat production will probably drop to 6,000 tons from 250,000 tons, the CFU estimated. The country needs about 1.4 million metric tons of maize to meet local demand and 450,000 tons of wheat.

Harvests of barley, cotton, small grains, soy beans, groundnuts, sunflower, tea, coffee, paprika, flowers, citrus and vegetables had also fallen, some by more than half, said Theron.

Business Week

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