Sydney Kawadza Senior Reporter
Government has moved in to secure grain being harvested under Command Agriculture by deploying its officials to assist beneficiaries on the correct moisture content, so that it is not rejected by the Grain Marketing Board and end up being lost to the parallel market.
Some farmers have been offering the grain rejected on account of high moisture content to unscrupulous dealers who offer low cash prices.
The dealers would then resell the grain to millers and other users at a higher price after drying it to acceptable levels.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made said in an interview last week that most farmers who participated in the programme used long-season varieties with high yields, hence harvesting would start in earnest next month.
“Teams comprising GMB officials, extension officers and officials from the ministry will go into the field and take moisture content from the grain before farmers harvest their crop,” he said.
“Farmers should consider strip harvesting. Moisture content is different in the various areas of the fields. Farmers using combine harvesters open up channels within the fields to allow natural drying of the maize.
“The main harvesting period for long-season varieties is the end of June. We will now go into full swing in July and August.”
Minister Made said farmers should continue monitoring their grain.
“Once the farmer has harvested and heaped the grain, it will be collecting moisture, making it susceptible to rotting,” he said. “Maize drying starts with the choice of seed variety — the long-season variety with high yields, the medium-season variety with lower yields and short-season varieties with very low yields.”
Minister Made said farmers should not rush to harvest their crops because of pressure to plant wheat.
“We end up losing 13 tonnes per hectare of maize to improper harvesting because of the deadlines,” he said.
“We must harvest what we have sweated for, so we can choose the best maize variety in the next season.”
Government recently raised concern over the emergence of a two-tier black market system outside GMB after grain rejected for moisture content in excess of the accepted 12,5 percent threshold ended up being sold to the unscrupulous dealers.
Minister Made reiterated that Zimbabwe was set for a bumper harvest after the successful summer cropping season.
“Firstly, agriculture in Zimbabwe on the threshold of the Special Maize Programme for Import Substitution that we have dubbed Command Agriculture will succeed whether people like it or not,” he said.
Based on repeated calls by President Mugabe to mechanise and to develop irrigation, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe mooted the programme with an initial target of 200 000 hectares strictly under irrigation.
“However, when further discussions where held looking at the technicalities, it was accepted that we can have 200 000 hectares under irrigation and a further 200 000 hectares under dryland in the high rainfall areas, making a total of 400 000 hectares,” Minister Made said.
“It is very important that when it started everyone was called, that is Government, the ruling party Zanu-PF, the private sector and anyone, who felt the sufficient need to be participating.”
Minister Made gave credit to the farmers, who chose to be pioneers of the programme, including the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster and the Social Services and Poverty Eradication Cluster.
Under Zim-Asset, the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster is chaired by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while the Social Services and Poverty Eradication Cluster is chaired by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.
“Even though we started with maize and other crops (under Command Agriculture), we are also adding livestock, fisheries and wildlife farming,” said Minister Made.