Zimbabwe won't starve, VP Mphoko insists
Harare – Zimbabweans won't die of hunger, its vice president Phelekezela Mphoko has been quoted as saying.
This is despite reports this week that at least 1.5 million people were at risk of going hungry after a drop in maize production.
Mphoko said the country's smallholder farmers had the potential to feed the nation, the state-run Herald newspaper said on Friday.
The vice president said this after touring agricultural stands at the ongoing Harare agricultural show.
"I've seen that farmers have a great potential. We cannot die of hunger. I’ve seen high quality produce," Mphoko was quoted as saying.
The World Food Programme said early this week that around 1.5 million Zimbabweans were expected to go hungry this year after a dramatic fall in maize production.
Zimbabwe was set to import at least 700 000 tons of maize from neighbouring countries to avert a food crisis.
Media reports on Thursday said that government was concerned over food imports, with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying they were draining the country's already strained resources.
Analysts indicated the food imports would cost Zimbabwe's cash-strapped treasury around $224m.
Mnangagwa said aggressive measures were needed to improve the country's agricultural production.
Critics of President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme have often blamed it for low production on the farms and national food insecurity.
Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
Mugabe said at the time that 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 during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation struggle.