Farirai Machivenyika and Elita Chikwati
Zimbabwe is set for a record maize harvest since the Land Reform Programme, with 2,8 million tonnes expected to be delivered to the Grain Marketing Board, in a development that is expected to drive economic growth, President Mnangagwa has said.
The agriculture sector contributes about 60 percent of raw materials used in the manufacturing sector, and a good cropping season usually leads to more factories operating and more jobs being created.
More local products are expected to be available on the market while Zimbabwe will make considerable foreign currency savings as imports of some goods will be cut.
In a message on his Twitter handle yesterday, the President said: “In 2019/2020, Zimbabwe had a maize harvest of 908 thousand tonnes. This year the maize harvest is predicted to triple to 2,8 million tonnes — a record harvest post-land reform. Zimbabweans, don’t let the doubters dampen your spirit. Our country is on the path to prosperity.”
A bumper harvest is also expected for traditional farmers with an estimated 360 000 tonnes envisaged.
The country received above normal rains this season which have spurred growth prospects for the economy.
The improvement in hectarage under cropping this season been attributed to early inputs distribution, especially under the Presidential Inputs programmes, training of farmers, empowerment and capacitation of extension workers and robust monitoring and evaluation as dictated by the Agricultural Recovery Plan.
There was also general early preparedness.
Capacitation of extension staff through increased mobility and appropriate training for effective technical backstopping and coaching of farmers in light of Good Agricultural Practices also helped, thanks to President Mnangagwa, who mobilised 5 000 motorcycles for extension staff.
The introduction of conservation agriculture popularly known as Pfumvudza/Intwasa also motivated some poorly resourced farmers who did not have draught power after losing their oxen to tick-borne diseases or drought. The early distribution of inputs resulted in most farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture planting with the first rains.
Government has already begun preparations for harvesting and storage with 72 and 21 combine harvesters expected from the John Deere and Belarus facilities while 665 Cottco depots would be used as collection and buying points.
Government will also import an additional 13 grain dryers from Italy while local industry will be engaged to produce 200 grain shellers.
Meanwhile, farmers have started harvesting the early planted summer crops as some late planted crops are now showing signs of moisture stress due to the break in rainfall activity.
Some crops are not yet ready for harvesting but are in good condition while some late planted crops in some areas have begun showing signs of moisture stress due to the decline in rainfall activity.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe yesterday said most early planted summer crops were ready for harvesting.
“Farmers have started harvesting maize, groundnuts and roundnuts. We cannot complain of the dry weather condition as all crops that were planted on time will not be affected by the dry conditions prevailing in most areas.
“Farmers who planted short season varieties late also have a good crop except for a few who insisted on plating long season varieties late,” he said.
Dr Makombe said some farmers welcomed the dry weather conditions as they have helped their crops which were being affected by incessant rains.
“It is important that there is still adequate moisture and this will help farmers in preparing for the winter cropping season,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union vice president Mr Edward Dune said farmers were at an advanced stage of reaping tobacco and others were grading in preparation for the opening of the selling season early next month.
“Farmers are also harvesting maize and some legumes. The bulk of the crop has matured and only a small portion will be affected by the dry conditions,” he said.
Meteorological Services Department senior forecaster, Mr James Ngoma said for the next few days, sunny skies were expected in most parts of the country.
“We had a bit of cloudy conditions over Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Beitbridge and Chipinge, and these cloudy conditions are expected to spread and cover much of Matabeleland South into Masvingo, Manicaland and southern parts of Midlands,” he said.
Mr Ngoma said sunny conditions are expected today over these provinces but cloudier conditions are expected tomorrow and Friday.
“Afternoon and evening thundershowers cannot be ruled out,” he said.
The country is expecting a bumper harvest and the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Ministry is mobilising harvesting equipment to reduce losses.
Modalities for grain mobilisation, purchase, storage and infrastructure upgrading have been put in place.