Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter—
Zimbabwe is expecting to harvest four million tonnes of food crops from the 2016-17 agricultural season, the final Government-sponsored crop and livestock assessment report has revealed. This means the country will have a surplus of one million tonnes of food crops. The food crops include maize, sorghum, millet, roundnuts, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cowpeas, squash, sugarbeans and pumpkins.
The increase in food production has been attributed to the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme and Command Agriculture programme, good rains, farmers’ hard work and self-financed farmers.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made yesterday confirmed that the country was going to realise a surplus in most crops.
He said the mood was buoyant as there was a massive increase of production in significant food crops.
“The expected maize production will exceed 2 155 000 tonnes, which is an increase of 321 percent from the 800 000 tonnes harvested during the 2015-16 agricultural season,” he said.
“When we add the small grains, the expected production will be more than 2,5 million tonnes against human consumption requirement per year of 1,5 million tonnes.”
Dr Made said it was important that Zimbabwe did not only rely on maize for food, but had a variety of crops that consituted the balance.
“Sorghum saw an increase of 400 percent from the 36 000 tonnes last season to 182 000 tonnes this season, pearl millet increased by 267 percent from 23 000 tonnes to 83 000 tonnes this season, while a massive increase of 328 percent was also recorded in roundnut production from 14 000 tonnes last season to 59 000 tonnes this year,” he said.
“Sweet potatoes increased from 204 000 tonnes to 517 000 tonnes, while groundnuts increased from 74 000 tonnes to 148 000 tonnes. I want to emphasise that, all told, in terms of major food items such as cereals, tubers and pulses, the country will produce four million tonnes of the significant food crops compared to the national requirement of around three million tonnes, which means that all in general, the country is expecting a surplus of all food items.
“We only give figures and the final food situation will be issued by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac), but we can safely say the picture is very good in terms of the food crop situation.”
Dr Made said every rural province recorded a surplus of food and Harare and Bulawayo were going to get their food from such provinces.
“I am happy that the whole country will register a surplus of over 900 000 tonnes,” he said. “Each province is safe in terms of food requirements. The biggest task now remains that of bringing the crop from the fields to the Grain Marketing Board depots or to any other market.
This exercise does not require advertising through the media, but real work on the ground.
“Some A2 farmers will be harvesting and bringing the crop to the GMB in bulk, while the bulk of the crop is stored in grain bags. GMB should move with speed to ensure grain bags are available at every depot across the country.”
GMB is buying soyabeans at $500 per tonne and maize and small grains are pegged at $390 per tonne.
Dr Made said communal farmers had done well in small grains such as rapoko, roundnuts, millets and maize and they should have the opportunity to deliver the crops to GMB.
“GMB must take the bags to the farmers and not refuse any crops including soyabeans,” he said.
“We should beg farmers for crops not the other way round. Farmers have done a comprehensive job and are pleading for a marketing channel. We should assist farmers in marketing their crops.
“I am pleased that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has mobilised grain bags on instruction by Cabinet. GMB should go to the farmers. GMB’s efforts should be reflected on the grain delivered not only in silos, but the stacks.”
Meanwhile, Government has instructed that the ministry moves with speed in re-introducing the marketing regulatory boards such as the Cotton Marketing Board, Dairy Marketing Board, Cold Storage Company and National Horticultural Authority to enable farmers to access markets.
“This will enable proper marketing of produce and make it easy for farmers and institutions to service their loans,” said Dr Made.
“This will also enable us to monitor where there is deficit and surplus, so we look at domestic, regional and international markets.
“The re-introduction of the regulatory boards will also reduce side marketing and farmers will have the capacity to pay back investors. This will support Zim-Asset, SI 64, beneficiation process . . . People should not reap where they did not sow, we want to support farmers who have taken a knock from drought and sanctions. Farmers should be given the capacity to look after themselves and have the capacity to return to the fields on their own and supported by Government and the ruling Zanu-PF.”