THE agriculture sector will operate with skeletal staff during the 21-day lockdown to ensure workers are not exposed to or spread the Covid-19 pandemic, Government has said.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri encouraged farmers to make every effort possible to ensure that labour engaged was either resident on farm, or from the surrounding communities.
Minister Shiri said in its mandate to guarantee household and national food security; clean water and sanitation services; animal and public health, the agriculture sector was an essential service with critical productive industries, activities and services.
These must remain operational, but with critical staff and strict Covid-19 preventive measures to ensure that staff and the general public is not exposed to the pandemic, while guaranteeing minimal disruption of household and national food and nutrition security and public and animal health during and after the lockdown.
Some of the critical services include the manufacture and supply of inputs (seed, fertilisers, agro-chemicals, fuel, day old chicks, stock feeds, tillage services, spares of agriculture machinery, equipment and support services.
Manufacture of water treatment chemicals, tillage services such as land clearing, land preparation, spraying, harvesting to enable smooth transition into the next season, contract farming for crop and livestock production under Government and private programmes and trials and experiments at public and private research stations, colleges, and diagnostics laboratories are the other activities.
The others are provision of clean water and sanitation to the households by ZINWA, local authorities, DDF and approved private sector players; provision of WASH services by UN agencies and cooperating partners; public and private grain importation, storage and distribution; grain milling, supply of requisite raw material to millers, and related logistical services and processing and distribution of stock feeds.
The agriculture sector also involves manufacture, supply, importation and installation of mechanisation and irrigation equipment services; issuance of import and export permits, as well as inspection of grain before shipment; livestock movement permits and meat inspection at slaughter houses; harvesting, domestic marketing and processing and export of perishable horticulture produce.
The other critical services are animal diseases preventive and control vaccinations against infectious diseases and treatment of sick animals; broader crop and animal health control services and national dipping programme; tsetse fly traffic control gates to stop spread to cleared areas; milk testing and transportation to collection centres and other factories.
The 21-day lockdown period is necessary to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Minister Shiri.
President Mnangagwa on Friday announced the 21-day national lockdown during which essential industries and services need to remain open to support the health sector and ensure minimal disruption of supply of critical goods and services.