Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Eastern Zimbabwe Plantations Face Grim Future

Eastern Zimbabwe Plantations Face Grim Future

June 27, 2011

Peta Thornycroft | Chipinge, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s eastern Manicaland Province may have taken the hardest blows from 
President Robert Mugabe’s 11 years of seizures of land from white farmers. 

In eastern Zimbabwe, years of neglect have left many plantations that once 
produced avocados, macademia nuts, coffee and timber in a pitiful state.

These crops take up to 12 years from planting to harvest, and nearly all of 
farmers who ran these plantations have been evicted since land invasions 
began in 2000.  Very few short-term crops do well in the hillier parts of 
Manicaland where most of Zimbabwe’s plantations used to thrive.

Replanting long-term plantations is too difficult to finance, says Trevor 
Gifford, immediate past president of the Commercial Farmers Union. 
Gifford’s plantation was forcibly taken from him a year ago. “Manicaland, 
has fragile steep soils, it [is] primarily suited to plantations, and 
regrettably over the last 11 years the critical mass of plantations have 
been decimated through abuse, and it would be very difficult to get 
Manicaland back to where it was.  There is no confidence to invest in 
long-term development,” he explained.

Zimbabwe was once a major coffee producer, but production has slumped by 
more than 90 percent and there are now only five remaining commercial 
producers who existed before the land seizures.

There are many black small-scale coffee growers who say they want to expand, 
and who could take advantage of assistance from the European Union, which 
has long assisted the coffee industry in Zimbabwe.  But small growers cannot 
take advantage of the current record-high coffee prices because the crop 
they produce is too small for export without the additional production of 
the larger growers.

“The small-scale coffee farmer who has been growing since 1984 … he or she 
knows that without the critical mass from commercial producers they are 
nothing because they will never produce an 18-ton container of same-style 
coffee,” Gifford noted.

Gifford says the agriculture ministry, controlled by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, 
discourages him and the European Union from encouraging new small-scale 
farmers to begin growing coffee, because it would mean recognition that 
large-scale commercial growers, who were mainly white, were essential to the 
small grower.

Gifford, one of the younger evicted farmers, is penniless now, but might 
have had an income of more than $2-million a year if he was still on his 
farm.  He says Manicaland’s plantations are not being rebuilt, and are still 
being destroyed. “I have seen in my travels; citrus industry, zero 
rebuilding, just destruction; macademia zero rebuilding.  If you go and talk 
to the big timber guys, the losses that they have incurred from fires in the 
last four or five years … we will be importing timber into Zimbabwe in the 
near future,’ he said.

Zimbabwe’s commercial plantation farmers had world class reputations for 
capital intensive, eco-friendly farming.  Gifford says he wants to remain in 
his country, and adds that he and several of his colleagues would like to 
help rebuild the plantations.

“We have such human capital … Africa, could if they just embraced us we 
could turn around government estates to get that critical mass of food.  I 
do not want to own another bit of Africa, I do not want to put good money 
after bad, [but] I have skills and expertise,” said Gifford.

Gifford’s former farm, Wolverhampton, looks a mess from the road.  The 
coffee and avocado pear trees have been chopped down.  The timber is being 
harvested by the people who took over his farm.

Five minutes after he drove past the farm to show it to VOA, his mobile 
telephone rang and a man threatened him with death if he came near the 
property again.

Ten days later, Gifford says he was driving past the farm with friends and 
shots were fired at his vehicle.  These incidents were reported to the 

In small and scruffy Chipinge town, tons of macademia nuts were being sorted 
in a warehouse.  Some of the nuts were being sold by people now living on 
Gifford’s farm for about $2 a kilogram.

One of the company directors, Jasset Faizel, said he and his Australian 
partner, Peter Fusarelli, had permission from the agriculture ministry to 
sell the nuts harvested from farms taken from white farmers around Chipinge.

There was no one available at the agriculture ministry to speak to the 


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