US agency projects Zimbabwe drought

HARARE – The United States Agency for International Development has warned of an imminent drought in Zimbabwe, following delays in rainfall being experienced in the 2018/2019 season.

A food security report published by the agency titled “Zimbabwe Food Security outlook (December 2018 to May 2019)” notes that low rainfall will increase the national maize deficit to below the average for the 2018-19 marketing season to March 2019.

“The start of the 2018-19 rainfall season has been delayed and rains have been erratic so far. Rainfall levels across most of the country are below normal long-term average.

“This has adversely affected on-farm activities such as land preparatory, planting and casual labour opportunities which are below typical level for this time of the year,” reads the report.

“Areas to the south and western parts of the country covering parts of Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South are worst affected because they have received insignificant rains to date. The dryness is also affecting water and pasture conditions that are especially poor in arid areas of the country.”

According to the report, the country is, however, expected to be around 77 percent maize self-sufficient, which is attributed mainly to above average (5 percent) annual national supplies from mostly carry-over stocks and average production from the 2017-18 production season.

The report also notes that cattle conditions have been deteriorating in areas that have received insignificant rains so far.

This has been attributed to a high and increasing prevalence of diseases that include anthrax, foot and mouth, tick borne and January (Theileriosis) diseases.

According to the report, prices for supplementary feeding and livestock drugs have also increased subsequently, while some drugs are unavailable on the market.

“It is reported that some outlets are only accepting payment in US dollars. Cattle deaths are being reported in some parts of the country and are affecting drought power and household incomes,” reads the report.

“The liquidity crisis which has also hit all sectors of the economy has also created critical shortages of fertilisers, other chemicals and crop inputs and that is expected to hit farmers in terms of crop preparations.”

Contacted for comment, Ben Gilpin the director of the Commercial Farmers Union told the Daily News that although it may be too early to predict a drought; rainfall has been inconsistent while various production costs have also hindered farming activities.

“Up to a week ago we were getting a bit of some rainfall. It is too early to predict a drought but really it is a cause of concern.

“Activity has been hampered a little because of costs of resources and uncertainty. Tillage has been a problem, many have been experiencing a lot of problems besides poor rainfall,” he said. – Daily News