Farmers are bullish over prospects of a decent harvest in the 2018-2019 summer cropping season despite rising input costs and inclement weather conditions.
El Nino weather conditions that are currently affecting most of Southern Africa have dampened hopes of a bumper harvest. A mid-season drought that affected the country last month has since given way to the current wet spell, which has raised hopes of improved crop yields.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail last week, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said although farmers experienced a lot of challenges before the cropping season, Command Agriculture was likely to increase output.
“The cost of inputs negatively affected the season, but we believe there will be increased maize production because of Government’s intervention with the Presidential inputs (Presidential Input Support Scheme). Some farmers had no option but to reduce their planting area, while others planted on a large area but their yields are likely to be affected because fertilisers are expensive,” said Mr Chabikwa.
“Annually, we target 1,7 million metric tonnes, but as of now, we are still planting because our target is determined by weather conditions. So for the meantime, we don’t have the actual hectarage, but we will have that by mid-February after Government’s crop and livestock assessment report,” he said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) executive director Mr Paul Zakariya said despite the recent dry spell, there was still hope that crops will recover.
“We are coming from a dry spell from the last three weeks and this has affected our crops because some crops didn’t germinate, hence, the yield will be compromised. Some crops also suffered from moisture stress, which resulted in the late application of top-dressing fertiliser, but if the wet spell persists for two to three months, we will have a good yield,” he said.
Mr Zakariya said farmers also need to complement Government efforts to switch from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation.
“As Zimbabweans, we should invest in farming business on our own. Government is not supposed to do this for farmers. In order to mitigate against drought, farmers should modernise the existing infrastructure and also put more land under irrigation,” he said.
The recent rains have, however, raised expectations for better-than-expected harvests.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) said last week the current wet spell is likely to continue for the next seven days, particularly in the northern parts of the country.
“The wet spell is expected to continue during the forecast period January 10 to January 20. The northern areas are expected to receive more rainfall in comparison to the southern areas of the country,” said MSD.
It is believed that the country has received below-normal rains since the beginning of the rainfall season on October 1 relative to the long-term mean (30-year mean). MSD usually provides three-day, 10-day and seasonal (three-month) forecasts.
So far, the highest amount of rainfall has been received in Manicaland and Mashonaland provinces.
“The highest rainfall that has been received since the start of the rainfall season is 507mm (Chibero), followed by 493mm (Mukandi), 398mm (Mutare Fire Station), 394mm (Chimhanda – Mt Darwin) and 388mm (Macheke).
“For the southern areas of the country (Masvingo, Matabeleland South), the highest rainfall received to date is in the range 100-200mm. Special mention goes to Mvuma and Filabusi, where the accumulated rainfall to date is 63 mm and 73 mm, respectively,” explained the MSD.
Farmers last year delivered 1 million tonnes of maize, which cemented the country’s food-secure status.