$2 billion pumped into agriculture but abused by new farmers

There are strong indications that many of the farmers who received land under the controversial land grab program, sold most of the free inputs they received from government.

This came to light following revelations by Finance Minister Tendai Biti that the country’s ‘underperforming’ farmers have received over $2 billion since the formation of the coalition government in 2009. This also showed that the claims by Robert Mugabe that Biti is deliberately starving newly resettled farmers, are not true.

Many of the farmers who received large tracts of land are politicians and include a number of senior ZANU PF officials. Many of Mugabe’s senior military commanders also received farms, forcibly taken off commercial farmers.

Mugabe insists the land reform program was initiated to right the wrongs of the colonial era, when black farmers were forced off their land and forced into less fertile areas, while the best land was reserved for white farmers.

But the scheme has been widely blamed for destroying the country’s agriculture-based economy and turning the country into a net importer of food. Charles Taffs, the President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), told SW Radio Africa on Friday that lack of accountability in the farming sector has contributed to the decline of production on the farms.

‘We are sitting on a country here which has a potential to be the jewel of Africa, yet we’re starving. And we are being held to ransom by a very few people,’ Taffs said.

He said it has been known for years that most of the farmers were getting free inputs and selling them off, often at half the retail price, killing off the supply sector.

‘There is no accountability at all, and my good guess is that the money is more than $2 billion. The whole structure of business has collapsed and the whole country suffered as a result,’ Taffs added.

Taffs’ predecessor at the CFU, Deon Theron, explained that most of the beneficiaries of the land were not farmers and that it was easier for them to sell inputs than produce anything.

‘Part of the bigger problem is most of the guys on the ground allocated land are not farmers but businessmen or politicians. It makes sense to them to sell it off (inputs) to other people, rather than try and produce and maybe make a loss.

‘If the inputs had gone into agriculture, you would have seen it in production figures. But current production figures confirm nothing has gone on the ground,’ Theron explained.

He said: ‘If I’m not a carpenter and you give me planks, what am I going to do with them. I would sell them.’

Analysts believe that the future of agriculture in Zimbabwe is closely bound to the country’s political stability, macroeconomic stability and maintenance of law and order, none of which currently exist.

SW Radio Africa News

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