Zimbabwe farm output to continue sharp fall: union

Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:58am GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe faces another huge food deficit in 2009 due to continued falls in farm production, mounting political uncertainty and economic instability, a report by a farmers' union said on Wednesday.

The southern African country is battling hyperinflation and has endured food shortages since 2000, when President Robert Mugabe's government began seizing farms from whites to resettle landless blacks.

A power-sharing deal signed by Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai last September looks fragile due to bickering over control of key cabinet posts, dimming hopes the ruined economy will be rescued.

The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), which represents most of the few remaining white commercial farmers, said agricultural output would continue to fall sharply until the country's political crisis was resolved.

"Investment in agriculture is long-term and its risk factor very high, therefore under the present unstable conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe at the moment, production in all sectors is expected to be extremely low this season," the CFU said in a report.

The CFU added that the economic meltdown had also hit farm operations.

"The super-hyperinflation prevailing in the country and the unavailability of cash from the banks has also impacted negatively on any meaningful production this season," the union said.

The last official inflation rate, for July last year, stood at 231 million percent.

Donor agencies say more than 5 million Zimbabweans, almost half the population, currently rely on food handouts and expect the number to rise following another poor agricultural season.   Continued...

<p>Zimbabwean Herbert Nyahanana digs out weeds in a maize field on the outskirts of the capital Harare, February 21, 2006. REUTERS/Howard Burditt</p>
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