DISTRIBUTION of inputs to 3,5 million smallholder farmers for the 2023/2024 summer cropping season is expected to start next week, as the authorities continue to pull out all the stops to continuously boost output in the sector.
It will be the first time the country has started handing out inputs so early in the year, underlining the drive by President Mnangagwa’s administration to guarantee both household and national food security.
As a sweetener to Independence Day celebrations, farmers in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central province, which will be hosting the main event, will be the first beneficiaries of the inputs.
Tremendous progress has also been made in preparations for the forthcoming winter wheat season, with some farmers have already started planting ahead of time.
Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services chief director Professor Obert Jiri told The Sunday Mail that the timeous distribution of inputs will guarantee a flawless summer cropping season.
“Early input distribution is key and so, all efforts are directed towards that. As a lead ministry, we have set new records, but, as we go into the new season, we are aiming to surpass previous records for all crops.
“To achieve this, inputs distribution is starting earlier and first beneficiaries will receive their inputs on April 18 in Mt Darwin. As we celebrate this year’s independence under the theme Zim@43: Nyika Inovakwa Nevene Vayo/Ilizwe Lakhiwa Ngabanikazi Balo, we are also saying a great nation like ours feeds itself,” he said.
Farmers are also being encouraged to engage in sound agronomic practices, which include early land preparation that involves soil tests and reconditioning.
“This is now being done at ward level, and lime distribution for pH correction will be complete as early as May or June.”
This year, Prof Jiri said, the main focus is on increasing productivity rather than hectarage.
“The target areas for the major crops have only been increased by 10 percent. Our major thrust is to increase production per unit area, rather than drastically expand the cultivated area,” he said.
To curb abuse of inputs, Government has this year introduced a new system to capture distribution through a fool-proof digital platform.
“As we move with time, our ministry is going paperless through the use of an application, with beneficiaries signing on the App. There will be no physical papers involved, which are prone to
be tampered with by unscrupulous individuals,” he said.
According to the recently approved summer and winter cropping programme, Government is this year targeting cereal production of 3 775 728 tonnes (3 060 000 tonnes of maize and 715 728 tonnes of traditional grains), which is enough to meet the human cereal consumption requirements.
About two million ha will be put under maize production; 418 000ha — sorghum; 275 000ha — pearl millet; 27 500ha — finger millet; 77 000ha — soya bean; 160 000ha — sunflower; and 270 000ha — cotton.
Besides summer grains, Government is targeting to be self-sufficient in wheat and oil seed production.
Ukraine and Russia were responsible for about 26 percent of global wheat and oil exports in 2020, and to counteract the fallout from the conflict in Eastern Europe, Zimbabwe is targeting 85 000ha for winter wheat this year, up from 80 388ha in 2022.
As a result, output is projected to rise to a record 408 000 tonnes.
Wheat production will be supported through private contractors, Government’s National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme, Presidential Wheat Support Scheme and self-financed growers.
“CBZ Agro-Yield is contracting 20 000ha at a projected average yield of 4,8 tonnes per ha, with the estimated production set at 96 000 tonnes. The AFC Land Bank is targeting 15 000ha, with a projected yield of 4,8 tonnes per ha, and the estimated production is 72 000 tonnes.
“The private sector and self-financed scheme will contract 25 000ha of wheat, with a projected average yield of 4,8 tonnes per ha, to give an estimated production of 120 000 tonnes. Food Crop Contractors Association will support 7 700ha of barley and expects 50 050 tonnes at a yield of 6,5 tonnes per ha,” according to a report for the envisaged programme.
Zimbabwe, it adds, has enough seed and basal fertiliser for the 2023 season and has facilitated importation of duty-free top-dressing fertilisers by local companies to cover supply gaps.
Government has also put in place measures for farmers to quickly transition from summer to winter by facilitating access to harvesting and tillage equipment through the AFC Land Bank.
Those who need driers would be supported by the Grain Marketing Board. The board has 20 mobile grain dryers with a capacity of 840 tonnes per day.
The private sector also has drying facilities for up to 100 tonnes per day.
“Wheat planting has already started, with Mashonaland West leading. We urge farmers across the wheat-producing areas to take note of the planting period, which covers April and May. When using high-yield varieties, they need to plant early to maximise on productivity,” added Prof Jiri. – Sunday Mail