Tesco cuts Zimbabwe ties

Tescos has ceased trading in Zimbabwe, in a sudden U-turn for the British retailer.

Last week, Tesco said it would be “irresponsible” to cut farmers off, but today said it would stop buying produce from the nation.

Tesco bought produce worth £1 million annually from Zimbabwe, but had been criticised for selling food from a country whose people are starving under Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Among other goods, Tesco sold sugar snap peas and fine beans from Zimbabwe.

A Tesco spokesperson said the decision was a “difficult one”.

“We have to date sought to balance wider political considerations against a desire to support our suppliers in Zimbabwe and enable them to support the workers who depend on that trade for their livelihoods.

“However, we cannot ignore the escalating political crisis in Zimbabwe, and the growing consensus in the international community – including from UK politicians on all sides – that further action must be taken to maximise the pressure for change.”

Tesco said it would look at other ways to support workers there and would make it a “very high priority to ensuring that this decision does least harm to the workers and their dependents who have supplied us from Zimbabwe”.

The decision comes as firms are put under pressure to cut ties with the regime, after the recent run-off presidential election ended with the sole candidate, president Mugabe, declaring victory.

The election has been widely condemned and the UN said it was “disappointed” with the situation, denouncing the poll as neither “free nor fair”.

Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch Brown recently told UK firms that they would find it harder to operate there as sanctions tightened.