Livingstone Marufu and Grace Kaerasora
Zimbabwe is on course to restoring food self-sufficiency and cutting the grain import bill by US$200 million, with preliminary indications showing that this year’s national cereal output will be between 1, 5 million metric tonnes and 1, 8 million metric tonnes.
This emerged from assessments carried out by various Government agencies countrywide over the past few weeks.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe projects that Command Agriculture alone could provide well over two million metric tonnes once a comprehensive mop-up has been done.
A second crop assessment is due in March 2017.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya told The Sunday Mail last week that Zimbabwe is poised for a “very good season”, and that agriculture will spur improved economic performance.
“The expected good agricultural season is anticipated to produce around 1,5 million and 1,8 million tonnes of maize and other cereals from 1,5 million hectares and seed cotton of around 100 000 tonnes.
“This requires Government to mobilise funding for the Grain Marketing Board and Cottco to purchase grains and seed cotton from farmers upon delivery to ensure that agricultural productivity is enhanced for food security and to minimise finance costs to the farmers.”
Dr Mangudya said paying farmers on time would renew large-scale interest in winter cropping and increase disposable income.
“The other upside of this policy recommendation is the savings on foreign exchange expected to accrue to the country this year given that last year the country had to import grain in an amount of around US$200 million due to the adverse effects of the El Nino-induced drought.
“Furthermore, agricultural produce contributes a significant proportion of around 50 percent of raw materials for the manufacturing sector. The take-off of agriculture is, therefore, critical to jumpstart the economy towards achieving the vision of regaining the status of being the bread basket of Africa.”
According to latest RBZ data, sorghum production increased by 118 percent from 86 000 hectares last year, while pearl millet farmers planted 124 088 ha compared to last year’s 56 000ha.
Communal farmers planted 724 735 ha of maize, A1 farmers 192 703 ha, A2 farmers 152 227ha, old resettlement farmers 114 991 ha and small-scale commercial farmers 46 234 ha.
Peri-urban farmers planted 12 734 ha of the crop.
The Presidential Well-Wishers Agricultural Input Scheme has supported 827 000 rural households this season, and 10 000 tonnes of Urea fertiliser were sourced from China.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the average yield was likely to increase from 0, 8 tonnes per hectare to over two tonnes per hectare in marginal areas.
Mr Chabikwa said, “We used to receive low rainfall in Masvingo and the bulk of the Midlands, but this year, most areas are in Region One because of the high rainfall.
“Farmers have planted 1, 5 million hectares, and if we average two tonnes per hectare, it will be over two million hectares of maize. As a result of good rains, farmers have increased the area under food crops.”
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director Mr Paul Zakariya added, “Although we still have other factors that could potentially affect our yield such as the fall army worm, which is not yet under control, more resources have been mobilised. Farmers who were idle before are putting in all their work, and the good rains will ensure a good crop.”