The latest wave of farm takeovers in Zimbabwe, coming as the harvest season is just getting under way, could exacerbate food shortages in the country, experts warn.
Veterans of the country's 1980s liberation war and youth militia of the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe have descended in recent days on many of the estimated 450 farms that were still in white hands following the chaotic land reform process that Mr. Mugabe launched in 2000, crippling the country's agricultural sector.
Farm seizures around Centenary, Mashonaland Central, where farmers specialize in tobacco, could cost the country US$10 million in foreign exchange, sources said.
Farmers elsewhere could lose their crops, including already scarce maize.
Agricultural expert Roger Mpande told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the farm invasions are likely to have a serious impact on the food supply, as farmers were coming into the peak harvest season for staple maize.
Politically inspired violence was reported on farms in Manicaland Province. The Center for Research and Development in Mutare, capital of the province, said ruling party youth militia assaulted farm workers in retribution for the party's election losses.
Members of the organization Justice for Agriculture, which represents displaced white farmers, and human rights activists, have expressed the fear that thousands of farm workers may be evicted from their homes amid the crackdown on white farmers.
With an average of 100-200 workers employed on each white-operated farm, sources said the number of those displaced could mount into the hundreds of thousands.