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Farmers in Zimbabwe face decline in harvests

HARARE, Zimbabwe — An organization mostly made up of displaced white farmers in Zimbabwe said Thursday that corn harvests are forecast to decline by tens of thousands of tons despite recent rains and that the nation’s troubled economy will again rely on costly food imports and donor handouts.

The Commercial Farmers Union said Thursday that production in the former breadbasket remains in turmoil. It said black farmers resettled on formerly white-owned farms seized since 2000 are “in dire straits” because they do not have necessary financing.

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Union head Charles Taffs said collapsing rural infrastructure might be helped by a new financial recovery plan by former farmers who do not expect to regain their seized farms.

Latest annual corn production is estimated at 833,000 tons, down by 60,000 tons from last year, compared with more than 2 million tons in 2000.

The collapse of the rural economy is causing mass migration to already stressed towns and cities, he said.

Farm dam walls have not been maintained, fencing has been uprooted, and conservation laws are openly disregarded with drastic environmental consequences, Taffs said.

His organization has drawn up a broad recovery program to restore the value of land against which loans could be obtained by the new farmers and former owners would provide support and advice drawn from long years of experience.

“People are starving in this country. It is time to act. We can’t wait,” Taffs said.

The farmers’ proposals call for foreign funding for an issue of bonds to pay compensation to farmers who lost land and the creation of a Land Bank where the bonds, redeemable later, and title deeds would be deposited and made available as capital for new farmers.

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