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Heather Charema in CHEGUTU
Government has set aside 15 000 tonnes of traditional grain seed to sponsor farmers willing to grow the crop in the 2019/2020 cropping season.
Experts say the country will receive normal rains with a bias to below normal in the upcoming cropping season and Government has since encouraged farmers to go for drought-resistant crops to ensure food security.
Speaking to The Herald on the sidelines of the small grains promotion campaign launch at Rukawo Motel in Chegutu last week, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said Government had regularised the selling price for both maize and traditional grains.
“We have set aside 15 000 metric tonnes of traditional grains seed which is equivalent to 1,5 million hectares of land and that is going to be given to our farmers for free,” he said.
“This goes to all those who are willing to plant traditional grains for the 2019/2020 cropping season. The fertiliser will be coming under Command Agriculture and will not be for free.
“The selling price for maize and that of traditional grains will be the same, maize will be sold at $4 000 per tonne and traditional grains will be the same price.”
Addressing stakeholders who attended the event, Deputy Minister Haritatos said the country needed to diversify farming by moving away from the growing of maize, considering climate change, health issues and the economic benefits of traditional grains.
“Our forefathers grew these traditional grains and were much stronger and healthier than us, but during slave trade, maize was introduced to us,” he said. “It is not our indigenous crop and as Zimbabweans we should consider growing crops that protect our health. Mashonaland West is expecting normal to below normal rains this year; this also calls for us to grow traditional grains.
“They require half the fertiliser than that used in maize production, can survive with 200ml to 600ml of water and are not affected by different temperatures.”
Deputy Minister Haritatos said when growing small grains, yields were almost guaranteed because sorghum has a potential yield of nine tonnes per hectare, while millet has about three tonnes per hectare, compared to the national maize yield of 0,99 tonnes.
He urged farmers to plant early, saying the seed could be ready for disbursement to farmers by next week.