Senior Agriculture Reporter
GOVERNMENT has expressed concern over escalating load-shedding by Zesa saying the development is denting efforts to
resuscitate the agriculture sector.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made said prolonged power cuts were causing insurmountable challenges to agriculture and downstream industries.
“Can you imagine a seed company using generators to dry seed and still expect to remain in business or sell the product at profitable prices?
“I was disappointed to note that some seed houses are doing that because of power cuts. This means that they incur very high costs of production, which they will transfer to the consumer in the end,” he said.
Minister Made said wheat production had taken a severe battering from load shedding as many farmers had abandoned it citing losses induced by failure to irrigate.
Most crop losses in recent seasons, Minister Made said, could have been avoided if farmers were irrigating their crops but were failing to do so because of power cuts.
“It is a fact that climate change is affecting the rainfall patterns seriously as evidenced by the numerous mid-season dry spells that are routing crops every year but with irrigation in place this can be mitigated.
“In some areas farmers have adequate water to irrigate their crops but they are failing to do so because they have either been disconnected or there are prolonged power cuts,” Minister Made said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director, Mr Paul Zakariya said few farmers will grow wheat this season because of the relentless power cuts.
“Hours of load shedding have increased forcing many farmers to turn to generators, which is very expensive. If seed houses dry seed using generators then they will push the costs to the product and ultimately the consumer.
“This will have a spiral effect in which farmers will demand higher producer prices after buying seed at high prices, while millers on the other hand will also up prices for their products,” he said.
Mr Zakariya said there was need for a solution to the problem.
Zesa, he added, should realise that electricity consumption soars during winter so they should plan for that surge and maybe adjust their load shedding schedules.
The power utility, however, maintains that they have asked farmers to form clusters, which will receive preferential treatment during load shedding for the good of the winter wheat programme.
Zesa Holdings spokesperson, Mr Fullard Gwasira, said power supplies were set to improve this season with the power utility devoting 50 megawatts to the winter wheat programme.
“We have also increased the hours of uninterrupted supply from last season’s three hours to four hours for those farmers in clusters,” said Mr Gwasira.
It, however, still remains to be seen if Zesa will stick to its word as farmers are already voicing their concern.
“Zesa’s promises cannot be trusted. They have said this many times but continued to disconnect the same farmers they now purport to be supporting.
“They should instead be talking of a settlement plan and not the extension of hours of uninterrupted power,” ZFU second vice president said Mr Berean Mukwende commented recently.