Onion season look auspicious for farmers

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

BUOYED by last season’s copious yields and the subsequent decent earnings, onion farmers have entered this year’s sowing period, which stretches from February to April bubbling with confidence for an equally rewarding season.

Justifiably, the recent Crop, Livestock and Fisheries Assessment report (CLAFA) 2 for the 2022/23 summer season released by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has indicated that there was an overall increase in production of horticultural crops for that season.

Onion production rose by 32 percent from 220 625 tonnes in 2022 to 290 628 tonnes in 2023.

The onion planting window usually starts in February and extends to April for optimum growing conditions, as the crop favours the cooler season.

In a recent X (formerly twitter) Seed Co Vegetables Zimbabwe said the plant population ranges from 650 000 to 900 000 per hectare, depending on spacing and production considerations. Maturity is within 90 and 110 days with an excellent shelf life of three to four months. Short-day onion varieties are harvested and sold fresh or dried.

An A1 tomato farmer from Cranham Farm in Mazoe, Mr Edward Simbanegavi is excited at the prospects of a bumper onion harvest in August especially as his crop has escaped the danger of thrips.

“I am thrilled to see my onion crop thriving without signs of thrips damage. It’s a testament to the hard work and attention. I have half a hectare of the crop. I am hopeful that come August, I will be rewarded with a bumper harvest,” he added.

Onions can be susceptible to various diseases that can significantly impact their growth and overall production.

Onion thrips cause both direct and indirect damage to onion by feeding and ovipositing on leaves that may cause green onions (scallions) to be unmarketable and dry bulb onion size to be reduced. Onion thrips can also transmit several plant pathogens that reduce onion bulb size and quality.

Last year, the Government launched a US$30 million Horticulture Export Revolving Fund (HERF) to enhance the horticulture sector’s contribution to the growth of the country’s export earnings and economic growth.

The progressive impact of the Government’s intervention policies is beginning to show with the horticulture sector’s export earnings projected to more than double from last year’s US$64 million to US$143 million this year.

Meanwhile, the national trade, development and promotion organisation, ZimTrade and PUM Netherlands in April 2016, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) where PUM shall provide technical interventions as well as expert advice to small and medium-scale farmers in the horticulture sector. The interventions are aimed at enhancing productivity and export competitiveness through on-farm training.

The idea is to set up three onion pools of 800-1 000 tonnes of produce per annum across the country. Members of the pool can sell part of their harvest directly to the market and deliver the rest to the warehouse pool, where it is graded and stocked in crates.

 

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