Gweru – Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly praised black tobacco farmers, saying they “are now producing more of the golden leaf than the white commercial farmers during the colonial era regime”.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, Mnangagwa said this as he defended the country’s controversial land reforms, after delivering a public lecture on command agriculture at the Midlands State University in Gweru this week.
He said that the tobacco production figures justified the country’s land seizures.
“When we took the land, taking it back to its rightful owners, tobacco production went down below 50 million kg… Now we are above 222 million kg of tobacco a year…”, Mnangagwa was quoted as saying.
He said that the southern African country had recovered and had surpassed 200 million kg which the white farmers used to produce.
A ready market
In 2015, reports claimed that the country’s agriculture sector, especially tobacco farming, which had collapsed in the face of President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms, was again booming, with black farmers funded by private firms producing a near record crop.
From 5 000 mostly white farmers in 2000, there were now more than 90 000 growing tobacco, known locally as “green gold”, the reports said at the time.
Farmers preferred the production of tobacco to traditional cereal crops because there was a ready market, payment was prompt, and marketing companies provided funding in advance for seeds and equipment.
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
Colonial land ownership imbalances
At the time, Mugabe said the reforms were meant to correct colonial land ownership imbalances.
At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.
The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers.