via Farmers battle to meet maize hectarage target Sunday, 22 December 2013 Sunday Mail
A combination of factors, including poor funding for farmers and erratic rains, are threatening to choke the country’s bid to plant 1,7 million hectares of maize this season, farmer representative unions have warned.
In separate interviews last week, representatives of some of the leading farmers’ unions in the country disclosed that less than half of the targeted hectarage has been put under maize so far as farmers battle a shortage of inputs.
The erratic rainfall pattern the country has been experiencing so far has seen most farmers stagger planting in a bid to minimise losses that could result from a sustained dry spell.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa conceded that the ordinary farmer is struggling.
“Collectively our farmers are yet to plant half of the targeted hectarage as most of them struggled to secure funding on time while others are still waiting for significant rains before planting,” he said.
“We also have a situation that most of the early planted crop is showing signs of moisture stress and this has also made farmers think twice about continuing with planting before they are convinced that the rainy season is truly upon us.
“The majority of farmers are now scared of dry planting since it has proved to be risky in the recent years after farmers had to replant which would be very expensive considering the cost of inputs.”
Mr Chabikwa, however, revealed that the significant rains that the country received last week should see farmers taking to the field and increasing on the hectarage that has already been put under maize.
“Planting is already at an advanced stage in areas that were receiving rainfall during the period when most parts of the country were experiencing a dry spell.
“These include parts of Masvingo, Matabeleland South and North, Midlands and southern parts of Mashonaland West. However, we expect planting to be in full swing throughout the country on the back of the wet spell we are currently experiencing,” he said.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union second vice-president Mr Berean Mukwende said the late rains have forced farmers to turn to early maturity varieties.
“Farmers who are planting now should consider medium to short-term maturity varieties since this is now a short season.
“Planting dates of crops are so important since the maturity period does not only rely on the availability of water but also day length and other factors, which is why we are saying irrigation development should be one of our priorities with the current trends of the country’s rainfall pattern,” he said.
Presenting the 2014 National Budget last week, Finance Minister Cde Patrick Chinamana disclosed maize output is estimated to have dropped to 798 500 tonnes this year, down from 968 041 tonnes in 2012 due to decreased hectarage and input supply challenges.