Zimbabwe reopens produce markets after farmer protests

Under the new restrictions, law enforcement agents at first prevented farmers from selling their produce either at markets or on city streets.

Under the new restrictions, law enforcement agents at first prevented farmers from selling their produce either at markets or on city streets.

AFP/Jekesai Njikizana

MUTARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe has reopened fresh produce markets after pressure from farmers who struggled to sell their harvest under restrictions aimed at stemming spread of the novel coronavirus, Zimbabwean officials said.

Markets including prominent Mbare Musika in Harare and Sakubva Musika in Mutare were closed when President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration put the country on a 21-day lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

To deal with the threat, Zimbabwe has moved to halt many forms of transport and close facilities except for those deemed essential, including supermarkets and state-owned public transport.

READ: Half-a-million more Zimbabweans now acutely hungry: WFP

Under the new restrictions, law enforcement agents at first prevented farmers from selling their produce either at markets or on city streets. Those attempting sales in some case saw their goods confiscated.

“The lockdown has set me back. My tomatoes are perishable, so I lost many at the farm due to that restriction of movement,” said Cuthbert Chuma, a small-scale farmer from a village in Macheke District.

Many of Zimbabwe's farmers have already been hit by prolonged drought linked to climate change, and the market closures have come as an additional financial blow.

READ: Zimbabweans call for lifting of lockdown

Paul Zakariya, an executive director of the Zimbabwe Famers Union, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that his organisation had lobbied to see the markets reopened "to meet the demands of food even during the lockdown period."

But there are worries that reopening markets could set back efforts to contain the virus as shoppers gather.

Zakariya said he believed such fears could be addressed through efforts to ensure social distancing among shoppers and mandating the use of face masks.

Source
Reuters