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http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=81090

HARARE, 23 October 2008 (IRIN) - The distribution of agricultural inputs such as maize seed and fertiliser for the 2008/09 season has become the domain of Zimbabwe's military and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

As the first rains fell in October, farmers flocked to traditional input retailers, only to be told that the government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, had bought all the seed from producers and had centralised the distribution of agricultural inputs.

"We received an instruction that the government had purchased all the seed and would be responsible for distribution to the farmers," an official who declined to be identified told IRIN.

"I have been in this business for more than 20 years and I know the government does not have the capacity to distribute seed. The best method is the traditional way of allowing retailers to sell to farmers."

The absence of maize seed came as the Southern Africa Region Climate Outlook Forum, based in neighbouring South Africa, predicted that Zimbabwe would record normal rainfall between October and December, a crucial stage in the growth of the country's staple food.

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"Known or suspected Movement for Democratic Change MDC supporters did not receive any maize seed or fertiliser from the soldiers, who are responsible for distribution," he said.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa told IRIN the military should not be involved in the distribution of agricultural inputs, as they did not have the capacity, and there was a possibility that they would be biased in favour of ZANU-PF supporters.