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Zimbabwe Food Crisis Continues - 2003-12-15

For more than two years, Zimbabwe has had to rely on food supplied by outside agencies such as the World Food Program to feed millions of its citizens. That situation might not change anytime soon because most of the new farmers do not have the seed and fertilizer that they need, and getting these necessary supplies can be expensive.

The problem is a shortage of locally produced seed and fertilizers, and the high cost when they are available. The government is not supplying those who cannot afford these farming necessities.

This is raising more questions about whether the Zimbabwe government's much vaunted agrarian revolution will succeed.

Even when the rains finally come - and they are already late this year - most farmers still have no seed to plant.

Traditionally Zimbabwe has produced its own seed maize, but President Robert Mugabe's land-reform program has disrupted most of the country's commercial farming activity, resulting in less than enough to meet local requirements being grown.

Villagers at a World Food Program food distribution point told VOA that they and most other farmers simply do not have any seed maize "Some of us have nothing," said one villager. "Only a very few people have any seed."

"We do not have any seed, we are going to use the maize we receive for food as seed," said another. There is nothing we can do. Maybe we can harvest something."

A spokesperson for the Commercial Farmers Union who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity blamed the seed shortage on bad planning on the part of the government.

One official of a seed-marketing company who also requested anonymity says that while seed production was lower than normal last season, the issue now is the prices of seed from commercial outlets.

As if this were not enough, he said, seed is finding its way onto the black market where prices go up substantially. That means the seed is priced out of the reach of the country's mostly black new farmers, who have no access to either government or bank loans.

And what this means, in turn, is that when it comes harvest time, there will be little or nothing to harvest.