Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Worst harvest in 50 years: CFU

Worst harvest in 50 years: CFU

Zimbabwe is heading for its worst harvest in 50 years unless something is 
done by the government to secure property rights for farmers, the Commercial 
Farmers Union has said.
by Kirsty Whalley

The warning comes against a background of increased volatility in world food 
prices, which reached new heights earlier this year. The impact of food 
price volatility on Africa was the subject of a briefing organised in 
Brussels by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation 
ACP-EU on November 30.

The date was significant because it marked the end of the French presidency 
of the G20 which had put the issue of food price volatility at the top of 
its agenda. In two panel discussions, those attending the briefing debated 
the causes of food price volatility and discussed policy recommendations to 
improve food security in developing countries.

In 2008, global food prices spiked due to an increase in the use of food 
crops for biofuel, extreme weather affecting crops and an increase in 
trading on futures markets. This led to a food crisis in many African 
countries and exacerbated the problem in Zimbabwe, where a drought which 
destroyed much of the maize harvest, as well as the unstable political 
situation meant that about five million people – almost half of the 
country’s population – was starving and needed food aid.

This, coupled with Mugabe’s disastrous land policy, meant the country 
produced just 500,000 tonnes of maize in the 2007/2008 agricultural season. 
The country needs at least two million tonnes of maize to feed the 

Dire outlook

Earlier this year, world prices again reached the levels of the 2008 food 
crisis, although it has not had the same devastating impact because the 2010 
harvests in many African countries were above average. However, the outlook 
in Zimbabwe next year is looking increasingly dire.

With a possible election next year and increasing political violence against 
the few remaining commercial farmers, many have been unwilling or unable to 
start planting this year.

The situation has alarmed the CFU who are warning that maize production 
could drop to as little at 400,000 tonnes next year unless the government 
works with farmers to restore property rights and create an active land 

Charles Taffs, president of the CFU, said: “We have entered an agriculture 
season, which in our view is the least prepared for in over 50 years. 
Growers of all sizes, and from all backgrounds have no security; there is 
little funding available for inputs and their ability to plan have been 
removed due to the constant threat of eviction. Agricultural production has 
been held up because of the political situation. I can’t understand where 
the government position is coming from. I’m going through the country and 
the situation is dire.”

He estimates, that at current planting levels, only 400,000 tonnes of maize 
will be produced next year, leaving Zimbabwe with a deficit of 1.6million 
tonnes. He warned that Zimbabwe could not count on its neighbours to produce 
enough export grain to feed the country, despite increased harvests in 
Zambia and Malawi.

Import export deficit

“As long as we continue like this, the deficit between import and export is 
going to continue to grow until the situation is unsustainable – and we are 
nearing that now. It really concerns me.”

Despite improved harvests in 2010, the country is still struggling to feed 
itself and the situation is getting worse.

More than a million people in Zimbabwe will require food aid between now and 
March 2012 with 12 per cent of the rural population unable to buy food, 
according to the World Food Programme. But the UN agency is facing a 
$42million shortfall in funding to carry on feeding the most vulnerable in 
the country over the next four months.

The problem of the situation in Zimbabwe, and the effect it is having on the 
region, was raised at the briefing in Brussels. Tobias Takavarasha, from the 
New Partnership for Africa’s Development agency, talked about food price 
volatility in Africa as part of the second panel discussion.

In his presentation he said the political problems in Zimbabwe “appear to 
have contributed to price instability in the region – Malawi, Mozambique and 
Zambia” admitting that “effective policies are required to address the 

Although he refused to comment directly on the Zimbabwe situation, he did 
stress the need for food reserves in southern Africa to alleviate an 
impending food crisis.

Great potential

In 2006, SADC did propose a regional food reserve facility to cope with any 
disasters in member states, but little progress has been made on 
implementing this. Hafez Ghanem, the Assistant Director-General of the FAO, 
was also unwilling to talk specifically about Zimbabwe. But he said:

“Africa needs its governments to invest in agriculture. The real way of 
reducing food insecurity and increasing productivity is to reinvest in 
agriculture. Africa has great potential, yields are so low, we have a real 
opportunity for moving up.”

Zimbabwe’s finance minister Tendai Biti, has admitted the country needs to 
invest $2.5billion a year in agriculture to ensure the country is able to 
feed itself.

“The financial requirements for adequate support to agriculture are large, 
translating to around $2.5bn per annum for grain, cash crops as well as 
livestock production,” he said, adding $702million needed to be invested in 
grain production.

He has promised a three year finance strategy which will see considerable 
investment in agriculture which he has said he will announce early next 

“During the first quarter of 2012, I will be announcing the detailed 
financing structure of the three-year Agriculture Rolling Financing 
Strategy, tapping from both public and private sources,” he said.


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