MAIZE production for the forthcoming 2021/22 summer cropping season is projected to hit three million tonnes, an all-time record high, up by nearly a million tonnes compared to last season’s bumper harvest.
Preparations for the summer cropping season have commenced in earnest with Government planning to expand the Presidential Input Scheme to cover 2,3 million households up from 1,8 million that benefitted from the programme last year.
Distribution of inputs under the scheme will target households registered under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa conservation agriculture programme.
This year the Pfumvudza programme will support production on five plots per household up from three last season.
Further, under the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), also known as Command Agriculture, the Agricultural Finance Company (AFC) Holdings, formerly Agribank, and CBZ Bank will support 5 000 highly productive farmers through loans backed by Government performance guarantees.
To fund production, AFC together with the Agricultural Marketing Authority will raise $20 billion through Agro Bills.
Over 280 000 hectares of land will be put under maize through the Presidential support scheme, which targets production of around 1,48 million tonnes of the staple grain.
In addition, under the NEAPS, 290 000ha will be put under maize with a projected harvest of 1,45 million tonnes.
The outstanding tonnage will be covered by privately funded production.
According to the State of Preparedness Report tabled in Cabinet recently by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, Government wants to increase crop production to meet and surpass the national requirements for both human consumption and industrial use.
“The summer cropping programme will be funded through public, private, development partners’ support and public-private partnership arrangements,” the report reads in part.
“Government will finance Presidential crop and livestock input schemes through Treasury and provide Government guarantees for Government programmes funded through AFC and CBZ.
“The crops outside the Government funded programmes will get support from private contractors, farmers’ own resources and development partners.”
Government, according to the report, will expand support programmes to A1 and communal farmers.
Preliminary forecasts show that Zimbabwe is projected to receive between normal to above normal rainfall this year.
“The Presidential Input Programme will target 2,3 million vulnerable households in communal, A1, small scale commercial farming and old resettlement sectors for cereals, oil seeds and legumes.
“The scheme will adopt the Pfumvudza/Conservation Agriculture concept based on the principles of minimum soil disturbance (holing out), mulching to conserve moisture, timeliness (of operations) and adoption of good agronomic practices.
“NEAPS will target 5 000 highly productive farmers with a good track record of production and repayment from the current running CBZ Agro-Yield Commercial Contract Farming Scheme.
“The programme will consider first those farmers with functional irrigation and those in high rainfall potential areas.
“In total the companies will supply about 119 000mt of basal fertiliser and also 119 000mt of top-dressing fertilizers.
“Most of the basal fertilizer will be ready for distribution by the end of August 2021.”
Supply contracts with seed and chemical companies have already been finalised.
In anticipation of a successive bumper harvest, Government will speed up rehabilitation of the Grain Marketing Board silos in order to increase their holding capacity.
“There is a need to speed up rehabilitation and expansion of GMB storage capacity to absorb the increase in production,” the report added.
“In light of threats of consecutive droughts, there is a need to increase the physical Strategic Grain Reserve from 500 000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes comprising 800 000 tonnes maize and 200 000 tonnes traditional grains.”
Agritex acting director, Mr Stancilae Tapererwa, said training of farmers who will take part in the Pfumvudza programme was ongoing.
“We are still training farmers on Pfumvudza and we are happy with relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions because we can now gather about 100 people at a time,” he said.
“We have already sent our bill of quantities for the 2,3 million households that are set to receive support under the programme.
“Purchases have also begun and we are now working on distribution modalities.
“Tomorrow (today) we begin Pfumvudza training for cotton farmers.”
Government wants to increase household food security by 100 percent by the year 2024.
Through implementation of the Agriculture and Food Security Systems Transformation Strategy (AFTSTS), Government seeks to accelerate agriculture production, productivity and growth.
The agriculture sector is projected grow marginally by 0,1 percent in 2022 before rebounding to a 5,1 percent and 5,2 percent growth in 2023 and 2024 respectively, according to Treasury’s 2022 budget strategy paper.