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Economic Skepticism On Zimbabwe's 99-Year Farm Leases

Zimbabwe started issuing 99-year leases to farmers on land seized in recent years from white commercial farmers, but some economists warned that the move might not produce the agricultural bonanza that the Harare government is hoping for.

President Robert Mugabe approved a batch of 120 leases this week - but most of the beneficiaries were officials with only 5 white farmers represented in the program.

Mugabe conceded in a ceremony marking the issuance of the leases all is not well in Zimbabwe agriculture, and he urged farmers to boost maize and wheat production.

Economist Eric Bloch noted that the mere issuance of the leases would not change much so long as inputs such as fertilizer and fuel remain scarce.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai dismissed the event as a “ZANU-PF Muppet show,” redounding to the exclusive benefit of the ruling party hierarchy and its associates.

Chief Economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare must do more to restore Zimbabwe's role as Southern African breadbasket, noting that Zimbabwean banks are not likely to rush to make new farm loans.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...