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Zimbabwe Farmers Not Planting Wheat - 2002-05-27


In Zimbabwe, the deadline for planting wheat has passed, and farmers have planted only a third as much as they did in previous years. Farmers blame President Robert Mugabe's government for failing to give them written guarantees they would be allowed to harvest the wheat they planted.

Zimbabwe's commercial farmers, most of whom are white, are blaming the government for their failure to plant wheat. Parliament has repeatedly amended laws governing seizure of white-owned land for resettlement. The latest law demands that farmers who receive eviction notices must finish their farming activities within 45 days and leave their homesteads in another 45 days.

That means two-thirds of Zimbabwe's approximately 3,000 white commercial farmers will have to leave their farms by August 10, too early to harvest any wheat.

Colin Cloete, president of the Commercial Farmers' Union, has revealed that wheat stocks will run out in four weeks, which will mean bread will disappear from the shops.

Since early February, shops have had little maize meal, the staple food.

The few farmers who have planted wheat have taken a risk and used their own money to finance the crop.

The rest needed loans. The banks refused to lend farmers money for wheat without written guarantees from the government that it would not expropriate the harvest. The government has refused to supply the guarantee.

People resettled on land previously owned by white farmers say they do not have the resources or expertise to plant wheat.

Non-governmental organizations distributing food aid in rural areas say the looming wheat crisis will shortly affect millions living in cities and towns.

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