Zimbabwe’s white farmers were very inefficient


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Even among tobacco farmers, who reportedly sustained the Rhodesian regime under sanctions, only 30 percent of the growers were making maximum use of their land. Their inefficiency, he says, was shown by their growing dependence on credit which increased by 67 percent from 1972 to1976.

White farmers were therefore depended on the government subsidy, something that is abhorred and scoffed at today.

Riddell quotes Ian Sanderman saying: “The minister (of Lands) being both a farmer and also an accountant will know that European ownership of land is to a large extent conditional upon facilities from the Agricultural Finance Corporation (now Agribank). Between 1972/73 and 1976/7 government spent $39.5 m on agricultural loan and debt appropriation, of which $15.4m went to the Agricultural Finance Corporation. What is more, in the same period, the loss to the exchequer in respect of previous interest-free loans amounted to $18.5 m. This is further evidence that government assistance is needed and European farmers do, in part, depend upon subsidies.”

But it was not only crop farmers that were inefficient. An investigation of beef production in Matebeleland and the Midlands showed that between 40 and 60 percent of all beef farms in the area were non-viable, Riddell says.

In Matebeleland North, it was estimated that for beef ranches to be economically viable they needed at least 800 livestock units.  Using this criteria only 24 percent of the farms, 110 out of 445, could be considered viable.

So why were the farmers kept on the land?

Riddell says the government kept the farmers on the land “for political and strategic as well as economic reasons”.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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