Zimbabwe has set a target of 3,6 million tonnes of maize for the forthcoming summer cropping season, which weather experts say may have good rains.
Seed and fertiliser producers are already prepared with inputs.
Last year, the production of maize and traditional grains was estimated at 1,1 million tonnes against a national requirement of about 2,3 million for human and livestock consumption.
Secretary for Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Dr John Basera yesterday said targets of 1,5 million hectares had been set for planting with an average of 2,4 tonnes per hectare for the expected yield.
For traditional grains, targets of 750 000 tonnes of sorghum, 200 000 tonnes of pearl millet, 37 500 tonnes finger millet and 240 000 tonnes of soya bean, had been set.
The summer cropping programme will be funded through public and private entities, development partners’ support, and public private partnership arrangements.
Dr Basera said crops falling outside Government-funded programmes will get support from private contractors, farmers’ own resources and development partners that support sector activities.
“In line with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme underpinning tenets, value chain financing models through contract farming is a smart and sustainable way to support growing as well as off-take of strategic crops. To this end, players in the oil, stock feed and milling industries will be compelled to adopt backward integration and fund at least 40 percent production of their raw material supply locally.
Initially, this will be pursued through use of the permits issuance system with a view to legislate in the long-term.”
The Presidential Inputs Scheme is targeting two million vulnerable households this year and will be funded by Government.
The scheme has been rebranded to Climate-Proofed Presidential Input Support Programme, which has seen the introduction of the Pfumvudza Conservation Agriculture Programme.
So far 1,9 million farmers have been trained for Pfumvudza while others have already been registered for inputs.
Said Dr Basera: “We need to exceed the target to achieve at least 90 percent adoption system. We have also capacitated extension officers so they are able to reach out to farmers. So far, over 500 motorcycles have been delivered to extension officers.”
The distribution of inputs under the Presidential Inputs Scheme for the summer cropping season has started with seed and fertilisers being delivered to Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots.
Farmers are expected to start collecting inputs in the first week of September.
The 2020-2021 Government-supported Command Agriculture programme is targeting to establish 350 000 hectares of maize, 90 000ha irrigated and 260 000ha dry land, plus 60 000ha soya beans.
The programme will be refocused to target 5 000 highly productive farmers with a “good track record” of producing maize and soya beans and repaying their loans.
Said Dr Basera: “The programme will select highly productive farmers from the currently running CBZ agro-yield commercial contract farming scheme.”
Presenting at the annual agri-business conference at the Exhibition Park on Wednesday, fertiliser industry spokesman, Mr Tapiwa
Mashingaidze, said the national requirement for fertiliser was about 600 000 tonnes.
More than half this demand is dominated by Government schemes, Command Agriculture and Presidential Inputs, and this had important implications in terms of funding modalities. Fertiliser demand is expected to increase to between 700 000 and 800 00 tonnes per year.
“The biggest challenge is the availability of funding to enable access to raw materials. There is need for a scheme for funding fertiliser production in terms of foreign currency and local currency. There is need for a new financial model,” said Mr Mashingaidze.
Seed industry spokesman, Mr Ivan Craig, said the seed houses were ready for the season and had started distributing seed to GMB depots for easy access by farmers.
“So far, we have 37 076 tonnes of maize seed, 660 tonnes of cowpeas, 5 550 tonnes sorghum, 2 722 tonnes soya bean and 2 905 tonnes of pearl millet. We do not have certified seed for sunflower in stock.
“Some companies are importing while some farmers have open pollinated varieties which they have been retaining and recycling. This is not encouraged as it brings in pests and diseases,” he said.
The District Development Fund, which used to offer tillage facilities to farmers, now does not have enough tractors to offer the service to many farmers. DDF Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Mr James Jonga, said the unit had a fleet of just 150 tractors.
“Soon, we are going to meet the Ministry of Lands on the hectarage that requires tillage facilities. Besides offering tillage services for a fee, we have also been rehabilitating irrigation schemes to ensure farmers produce crops throughout the year,” he said.
Farmers unions said preparations for the summer cropping season were underway, adding that many farmers would rely on Government schemes as prices of inputs were escalating.