712 500 metric tonnes of cereals expected from winter irrigation

Source: The Chronicle – Breaking news

712 500 metric tonnes of cereals expected from winter irrigation 
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere addresses the media during a post-Cabinet briefing in Harare yesterday

Sikhumbuzo Moyo, smoyo@chronicle.co.zw

TO boost food security after the El-Nino-induced drought, Zimbabwe is intensifying irrigation efforts this winter season to produce 712 500 metric tonnes of cereals from 142 000 hectares. 

This was revealed by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere, in a post-Cabinet briefing yesterday.

He said the report on summer cropping performance, winter irrigation and food security was presented by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka.

Dr Anxious Masuka

Dr Muswere said the Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee (ZimLAC) report indicated that 1,7 million people in urban areas will require assistance while a total of 7,7 million people, which is 51 percent of the population, will require food assistance, although the figure excludes a further 4,5 million who will require school meals.

“Regarding winter cereals production, a total of 712 500 metric tonnes of wheat, barley, maize, sorghum, and potatoes are planned to be produced this winter from the available irrigation area of 142 000 hectares,” said Dr Muswere.

“All the wheat production enablers, including power, water, seed and fertilisers are being tracked on a weekly basis.”

As part of measures to boost supplies, Dr Muswere said the private sector has capacity to import one million metric tonnes to mitigate the effects of the drought.

“The grain stock at the Grain Marketing Board as at May 9, 2024, stood at 423 779 metric tonnes. The private sector is expected to import all the stock feed requirements of 400 000 metric tonnes and urban maize requirements of up to 450 000 metric tonnes to March 2025,” he said.

Dr Muswere said the second round of crop, livestock and fisheries assessment report confirmed that both agricultural production and productivity for the 2023/2024 agricultural season were severely and negatively impacted by the El Nino induced drought, a phenomenon that was experienced by the whole of the Southern African region, although Zimbabwe seemed to be the epicentre of the phenomenon.

“A total of 1 777 540 hectares was planted to maize in the 2023/2024 season, which represents a seven percent reduction on the target area of 1 782 000 hectares. The area planted to maize was 12 percent lower than the previous year, and this was a reflection of agroecological tailoring, which entails a shift to traditional grains in drier regions,” he said. 

“Cumulatively, the area under cereals (maize and traditional grains) was 2 496 201 hectares, and was initially expected to yield 2 579 237 metric tonnes.”

Regarding livestock, Dr Muswere said the impact of the El Nino-induced weather conditions on water supply and grazing availability for livestock resulted in the loss of 9 941 cattle at the beginning of the 2023/2024 season, with the most affected districts being Tsholotsho and Binga in Matabeleland North province and Mangwe and Bulilima districts in Matabeleland South province.

He said Cabinet noted that 47 percent of the wards will face a critical grazing shortage from July 2024 onwards, while 12 percent are assured of adequate grazing to the next season.

“Government assures citizens that Zimbabwe will emerge from this drought stronger, more  united, more resilient, better organised, better coordinated, and better capable of withstanding similar shocks in future,” said Dr Muswere. 

“A comprehensive report on drought strategies and measures is now available and will shape interventions going forward.”

Dr Muswere also said Cabinet advised that the 2024 cotton marketing season will be from June 1-30 June 2024, and that farmers will receive 75 percent of their payments in US dollars and 25 percent in ZiG. 

“All outstanding payments by the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe amounting to US$2,65 million and US$2,8 million in ZiG will be cleared by 31 May 2024. The grade-based pricing system will be announced once ongoing consultations are concluded,” he said. 

The newly introduced Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency which started circulating today, is yet to start circulating in the mining town of Kwekwe

“Regarding tobacco, Cabinet advises that as at 8 May 2024, 116,4 million kilogrammes of tobacco were sold at an average price of US$3,57/kg, with decentralised floors accounting for 35 percent of the total tobacco sold under contract.” 

Meanwhile, Dr Muswere said the Africa Regional and Annual Tobacco Conference will be held in Harare today and tomorrow, and topics for discussion include production challenges and opportunities; sustainability of the tobacco sector; contracting models and future prospects of the tobacco sector in Africa.