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http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=79634

BULAWAYO, 5 August 2008 (IRIN) - Political violence, routine power cuts and fertiliser shortages are all but putting paid to any chance of Zimbabwe harvesting a winter wheat crop that will ease its chronic food shortages.

Once the bread basket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe has become dependent on donor food in a few short years. A recent UN report estimates that by early 2009 more than 5 million of Zimbabwe's estimated 12 million people will require food assistance, with the winter wheat harvest unlikely to make any significant difference.

One of the few remaining white farmers in the prime Nyamandlovu farming area, in Matabeleland North Province, who declined to be identified, told IRIN: "The crop that I planted was severely damaged after war veterans ordered my workers off the land as they campaigned for President [Robert] Mugabe in the June presidential elections, and the little that survived is still facing many challenges, which include persistent power cuts and shortages of fertiliser."

In 2000 Mugabe's ZANU-PF government launched the fast-track land reform programme, expropriating, often violently, nearly 4,500 white-owned farms to be distributed amongst landless blacks. The government failed to provide agricultural inputs to the new farmers, while in other cases the farms were handed out to government ministers, party members and army and intelligence officers, who often left their land fallow.

The white farmer, who planted 60 hectares of wheat and 10 hectares of barley, said outside events disrupted agricultural planning in the period leading up to the second round of presidential voting on 27 June.