Elita Chikwati and Lesego Valela
THE Government is targeting to produce 3 million tonnes of maize during the 2022/23 summer cropping season with preparations already underway.
This comes as the Second Republic has made food security a top priority and is working towards a US$8,2 billion agriculture industry economy by 2023, underpinned by the country’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) — the driver towards Vision 2030 to make Zimbabwe an upper middle-class economy.
The country requires 2,2 million tonnes of maize for human and livestock consumption and the three million tonnes target will position Zimbabwe as a significant player in grain production in the region.
This year farmers are expected to plant two million hectares of maize. For sorghum, Government has set a target of 380 000 hectares to produce 304 000 tonnes while 250 000ha are set to be put under pearl millet to produce 150 000 tonnes.
Farmers are expected to plant 25 000ha of finger millet to produce 13 750 tonnes of the crop.
Some farmers have started land preparations while others are procuring inputs. The farmers have however, urged Government to continue reviewing producer prices so they can be able to break even and go back to the land.
In the 2022/23 state of preparedness report, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka said the 2022/23 summer programme’s strategic objective was to sustainably increase crop production and productivity to meet and surpass the national requirements for both human consumption and industrial use.
Self-financed farmers are expected to put 1 369 798ha of maize, the Agricultural Rural Development Authority farms 17 278ha, private sector 40 000ha, the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme(NEAPS) and Pfumvudza 367 964ha.
“The 2021/2022 season has largely reflected the negative effects of climate change and has heightened the need to accelerate (and consolidate) climate-proofing strategies at every scale of farming,” the report noted.
The area planted to maize decreased by 1 percent from 1 920 541ha in the 2020/21 season to 1 903 669ha in 2021/22. The area planted to maize under Pfumvudza/Intwasa is 342 860ha representing 18 percent of the total area planted to maize.
Minister Masuka said the 2022/23 summer programme’s strategic objective was to increase crop production and productivity through the implementation of the key tenets of the Agriculture Recovery Plan.
This is anchored on ensuring that crops grown and livestock raised are determined by agro-ecological requirements accelerating climate proofing strategies for smallholder farmers by imposing mandatory preconditions for the Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme, such as training, holing out, liming and mulching, including herbicide and water retention enhancers in input packages.
“There is also a need for timeous provision of inputs (fertilisers, seed, agrochemicals and other key inputs), accelerating the implementation of the integrated dam construction projects in all provinces and expediting irrigation development, targeting at least 50 000ha per year,” said Minister Masuka.
The tenets also include a constant supply of key utilities such as power and fuel to farmers; crowding in the private and financial services sectors; access to appropriate finance for inputs and working capital and continuous support of targeted farmers with mechanisation services to improve efficiencies and climate proofing among other things.
Agritex chief agronomist Mrs Rutendo Nhongonhema said farmers in different parts of the country have started preparations for the 2023 season with some under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa now digging holes.
“Training has also started for smallholder farmers. Other conventional farmers are carrying out winter ploughing and lime application.
“We urge the farmers that while they are preparing for the next season, they should also take care of the grain they harvested to curb post-harvest losses. Farmers should also seek advice from extension officers for help when applying grain protectants,” she said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Dr Shadreck Makombe, said farmers have started land preparations and those with their own funding were procuring inputs.
“Our concern however, is that prices of inputs have continued to skyrocket and this erodes the viability of the producer prices.
“The producer prices should be reviewed constantly in line with inflation if farmers are to break even and go back to the land,” he said.
Dr Makombe urged farmers to use other means of reducing production costs.
“Some farmers now use manure for basal dressing and only worry about top dressing fertilisers,” he said.
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo also said preparations were progressing well.
“It is advisable that farmers buy inputs before it is late so they plant early for higher yields.
“We urge authorities to ensure inputs prices are affordable. Government should also engage manufacturers so they see how farmers can access seed and fertilisers at viable prices,” she said.