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Zimbabwe Farm Production has Dropped Dramatically, charge White Farmers - 2003-08-06

Zimbabwe's mostly white commercial farmers say the agricultural sector, which was once the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy, is a shambles.

Three years after President Robert Mugabe launched his land reform program, Zimbabwe's farmers, or the few who are left, say production has dropped dramatically.

Most white farmers have had their homes, land and businesses confiscated under the program, reducing the number from about 4,000 to fewer than 600. Agricultural production in some crops plunged by more than 80 percent.

President Mugabe's white farm expropriation program followed the February 2000 defeat of his constitutional referendum, which he blames on the farmers' support for the opposition.

Many of the farmers who still remain on their land told the congress they continue to be harassed by supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Most said they did not know whether they would be planting for the coming summer season, because of uncertainty of tenure and the escalating cost of agricultural inputs.

Some of the farmers who lost their land said they are going to stay in Zimbabwe in the hope things will change and they will either receive compensation for their confiscated properties or return to their farms.

They said tens of thousands of farm workers who have lost their jobs have been reduced to abject poverty.

This week the World Food Program said its stocks of food would run out before the end of the month. It said the Zimbabwe government had made no plans to import food, and appealed to the international community for help.

Zimbabwe was, until three years ago, the region's most agriculturally productive country, regularly producing for export.