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Nestle delinks from Mugabe farm

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 2 – Nestle said on Thursday that it will stop buying milk from a farm owned by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe\’s family, who seized it from white farmers under his controversial land reforms.

The world\’s biggest food company said in a statement on its website that it had begun buying milk from Gushungo Dairy Estate and seven other farms in February because local dairy processor, Dairy Board of Zimbabwe, was not able to pay for its orders.

"In February 2009 the food and economic crisis in Zimbabwe reached a level where the dairy industry was at real risk of collapse, and the Dairy Board was no longer able to buy milk from these eight farms," the statement said.

"In light of our long-term commitment to Zimbabwe, we bought this milk on a temporary basis. This helped prevent a further deterioration in food supplies in Zimbabwe at that time."

Nestle said the Dairy Board would resume its purchases from the eight farms, and that the Swiss firm would stop receiving milk from Gushungo from Sunday.

Newspaper reports last weekend revealed that Nestle was buying milk from Gushungo, one of the farms seized under Mugabe\’s land reforms meant to correct colonial-era imbalances that left the best land in the hands of whites.

Gushungo is one of several farms now controlled by Mugabe\’s family, and has been touted in state media as an example of successful land reforms.

The land reforms began in 2000 but were marred by widespread political violence, devastating the economy as agricultural production plunged, leaving the nation dependent on international food aid.

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