Zimbabwe's economy is basically agricultural. The formerly strong commercial farming sector was thrown into disarray with the expropriation of white-owned farms that began in 2000, and the replacement of large efficient farms with smaller ones worked by inexperienced farmers. Formerly an exporter of foodstuffs, Zimbabwe now must import grains, but the small farmers have reversed some of the losses that occurred in the tobacco crop. Corn is the chief food source, and cotton and tobacco the principal cash crops. Other products include wheat, coffee, sugarcane, and peanuts. There are also tea plantations in the country; dairying is important in the highveld. Sheep, goats and pigs are raised.
Forests in SE Zimbabwe yield valuable hardwoods, including teak and mahogany. The country is endowed with a wide variety of mineral resources. There is extensive mining (coal, gold, platinum, copper, nickel, tin, clay, chromium ore, and iron ore), and significant diamond deposits were discoverd in the 21st cent. Among Zimbabwe's industrial products are steel, wood products, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing and footwear, foodstuffs, and beverages. Most of Zimbabwe's power is generated by a hydroelectric station at Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River.
The country has good road and rail networks and domestic and international air service. The main exports are cotton, tobacco, gold, ferroalloys, textiles, and clothing. Imports include machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, chemicals, and fuels. South Africa is by far the largest trading partner, followed by China, Japan, and Zambia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.