Emmah Chinyamutangira Manicaland Correspondent
SOME cotton farmers in Manicaland are likely to register huge losses as their crop has been adversely affected by the prolonged dry spell that characterised most parts of the country.
Manicaland provincial agronomist Mr Cephas Mlambo said cotton was affected while it was still at ball formation with some farmers expecting to start the first round of reaping next month.
“The number of farmers who have embarked on cotton farming this season has increased in the province,” he said.
“We had our first crop assessment in early February in Chipinge, Rusape, Buhera and other parts of Manicaland. Some cotton plants were showing moisture stress and we assume now the condition has worsened. Some cotton plants have already reached the permanent wilting point.”
Mr Mlambo said they would undertake a second crop assessment starting next week.
Cotton farmers from Chipinge who spoke to The Herald said their hopes for a bumper yield were shattered by the persistent dry spell.
“Since the beginning of this cropping season we have not received significant rains. We have since lost hope even if the rains are to come as crops have already wilted,” said Mr Tendai Chisandu.
Mr Timothy Gwenzi, a cotton farmer, expressd similar sentiments saying: “The continuous dry spell has destroyed my crop and I have lost hope.”
Nearly 11 000 hectares of land has been put under cotton production this farming season compared to 6 000ha planted last year around the province.
The increase in the number has been attributed to the rise in the uptake of inputs by farmers under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
Meanwhile, Manicaland has registered a significant decrease in beef supply as farmers continue to battle disease outbreaks and limited funds to combat the diseases.
Provincial livestock production and development officer Mr Joshua Zveutete said more than 75 percent of beef in Manicaland comes from the communal farmers who have been failing to acquire enough inputs, as well as vaccines for their cattle to improve productivity.
“The harsh economic situation has hindered the communal farmers from increasing production,” he said. “Vaccines to protect their cattle from diseases are expensive, so they have remained vulnerable to various disease outbreaks.”
Mr Zveutete said the crop situation, which has been negatively affected by a prolonged dry spell, will not only affect humans but also result in shortages of stock- feed.
“This situation makes it difficult for farmers to continue producing cattle because they will be forced to prioritise food security for humans at the expense of livestock,” he said.
Molus Meats manager Mr Artwell Mwagura said abattoirs were facing challenges in buying cattle from farmers.