Bumper harvest under threat

Wonder Chabikwa

Zimbabwe’s prospects of a bumper harvest have come under the spotlight as top dressing fertiliser for the climate proofed Presidential Inputs Scheme, Pfumvudza, is yet to reach to farmers at a time the crop is almost at mature level, Business Times can report.

Agriculturalists say top dressing fertiliser is applied at around three weeks after the basal fertiliser application.

It is now eight weeks after the application of basal fertilizer. The experts say the yield will be affected.

The government is telling farmers to buy their own fertiliser to save the crop promising to compensate them later.

In his 2021 National Budget, Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube predicted that Pfumvudza’s total harvest would reach over two million tonnes.Goromonzi extension officer Isaac Muzambi told Business Times that farmers should buy top dressing fertiliser to entertain hopes of a good harvest.

“We have not yet received the top dressing fertiliser from the government but we urge farmers to buy using their own resources as the crop doesn’t wait for these delays,” Muzambi said.

Agricultural experts say for any farming programme to commence it needs all inputs to be readily available before the commencement of the season, a move which the government did not follow when they carried out the conservative farming programme.

This year the country has experienced heavy rains hence crops need more fertilisers due to leaching.

The unavailability of top dressing fertiliser under Pfumvudza comes as experts say more fertiliser is required in the 2020/21 season.

“When we experience such rains like this year, farmers are expected to apply top dressing more than once to curb leaching.

A farmer will have a torrid time if he or she does not have enough fertiliser especially top dressing,” Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa told Business Times.

The government has begun the first crop and livestock assessment and is expecting the exercise to be completed soon to get a picture of a possible output.

The agriculture ministry has also given farmers an ultimatum to submit production forms to weed out those that have been underperforming.

The ministry had set the deadline by the end of January but later reviewed it to February 15 due to lockdown restrictions.

Despite being placed under essential services; farmers say the government is too harsh on them.

“We all know how deadly the Covid-19 is and the same government, which has extended lockdown, is forcing us to submit the forms to Harare and various district forms by February 15,” said a Shamva-based farmer.

Under the Pfumvudza programme, selected farmers were supposed to get a 50kg bag of compound D fertiliser, a 50kg bag of ammonium nitrate, a five kg bag of maize seed and in some instances 2kg bag of small grain.

The programme has been mired in controversy as some beneficiaries were said to be repackaging the inputs into small packs and selling them at the parallel market.

The small packs were said to be popular with urban farmers. – Business Times

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