Monday, October 01, 2007

Zimbabwe's Bitter Harvest

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's "anti-colonialism" program of taking farmland away from white owners and dispensing the land to his henchmen political supports (you know, returning it to "the people") continues to bear rich fruit for the people of his nation.

Reports from Zimbabwe say bakeries have run out of flour and there will be no bread in the foreseeable future.
The Agriculture Ministry has confirmed that this year's wheat harvest yield of 145,000 tonnes is only one third of the country's requirements.

Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo is quoted as blaming the shortages on the failings of what he called the "new farmers" created by the land reforms.

Last week, the government announced it would import 100,000 tonnes of wheat.

But even that would still leave Zimbabwe short of its 400,000 tonne target for this year.

And it appears that a shortage of hard currency has already stranded a shipment of 35,000 tonnes of imported wheat at the Mozambican port of Beira.

Last week, Zimbabwe's main bread producer Lobels Bread said it had scaled back its operations by 80% and had only two days' supply of flour left.

The AP news agency says stores across Zimbabwe are now telling customers that bread will not be available until further notice.

Facing another year of agricultural disaster, even ministers of the Mugabe government realize that the new "farmers" were not quite as good as the old ones.

The Sunday Mail newspaper in Zimbabwe reported that this year's production was badly affected by erratic power supplies that resulted in some farmers completely abandoning their crop at germination levels because of the failure to irrigate.

Other reports quoted the agriculture minister as pinning the blame on farmers.

This year's maize harvest is expected to be dire

Speaking last Thursday at the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union (ZFU) national congress in Masvingo Minister Gumbo said: "I am disappointed that our new farmers have proved to be failures since the start of the land reform programme in 2000."

"In spite of all the support government has been pouring into the agricultural sector, productivity and under-utilisation of land remain issues of concern," he added.

And he admitted that he was "painfully aware of the widespread theft of stock, farm produce, irrigation equipment and the general vandalism of infrastructure by our new farmers".

Naturally, Minister Gumbo did not extend his criticism to his own government, which caused this disaster in the first place, but at least he is keeping the blame in Zimbabwe. President Mugabe has alternately denied that a crisis existed or blamed a foreign conspiracy for causing it.

Fresh from the exhilerating success of his agricultural programs, Mugabe - who recently receive a standing ovation from other African heads of state at the African Union meeting - had introduced new economic reforms, mandating that foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe must transfer majority control of their operations to Zimbabweans (Mugabe's henchmen and supporters) or leave the country. The result will, of course, be the flight of any remaining foreign investment - save those by Chinese companies, which will somehow be exempted from the rules - and the further collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.


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