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Rains raise hopes of bumper harvest

by Staff reporter
13 Dec 2020 at 08:01hrs | Views
LOCAL farmers have started the summer season at a blistering pace and have already planted more than 80 percent of the targeted hectarage of maize, laying the foundation for a bumper harvest in the country.

The Meteorological Department has already predicted that the country will receive normal to above normal rainfall this year, giving hope that unlike previous years the planted crops will grow to maturity.

Before the season started, the Government had targeted to put around 500 000 hectares of land under maize, the country's staple, with 290 000 hectares under the National Enhanced Crop Productivity Programme and more than 200 000 ha of maize under-PFumvudza/Intwasa programme.

The Government allocated more than $4 billion towards the-PFumvudza/Intwasa Programme in support of vulnerable households as a way of ensuring firm preparations for the forthcoming season in line with the Smart Agriculture Strategy.

This funding will translate to conservative projected maize output of 1.4 million tonnes.

There are close to 1.8 million target beneficiaries of-PFumvudza/Intwasa.

The Government also announced that on National Enhanced Crop Productivity Programme, the nation had 285 440 hectares of the targeted 290 000 hectares registered by 11 829 farmers, and 43 067 hectares had been registered for soya bean out of the targeted 60 000 hectares by 932 farmers in the summer cropping season.

The farmers already had received seed maize, soya beans seed, basal fertilizer, soya blend, and top-dressing fertiliser.

According to statistics made available to Sunday News by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement crop department, 393 306 hectares had been put under maize production before the good rains that the country has received in the past 10 days.

"As at December 4, we had put 393 306 hectares under maize and 4 598 ha under soya. This was before the rains that we received in the past few days. The number has significantly increased and we are in the process of compiling the correct hectarage that has been put under maize in both-PFumvudza/Intwasa and National enhanced Crop Productivity Programme," the department noted.

Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Permanent Secretary, Dr John Basera said updated figures will be available by tomorrow.

"The figures for the total hectares that were put under maize by last week will be ready by Monday. The director responsible for crop production will provide the new compiled figures," he said.

To increase productivity the Government this year acquired farming equipment to help farmers in tilling the land.

Dr Basera said the Government has started distributing the 450 tractors that were imported under the Belarus facility ahead of the summer cropping season as Government moves to enhance productivity and adapt to climate change as well as adopting new farming technologies.

The Government has already distributed 40 while the remaining 410 would be distributed through banks where farmers will access them as loans under relaxed conditions which will be paid back within a reasonable and realistic period of time.

Zimbabwe entered into a deal with one of the world's biggest machinery and earthmoving equipment producers, Belarus where it is supposed to receive 475 tractors and has so far received 450.

Dr Basera said the Government had identified banks through which the tractors will be distributed to farmers.

Dr Basera said the country was fully prepared for the 2020/2021 summer cropping season.

"We have started distributing the tractors to farmers. So far, we have already sent 40 tractors. There are banks that include CBZ, First Capital Bank and others that will distribute the tractors to the farmers. These tractors are being given as loans to farmers who will have to pay back.

"As a country we believe the mechanisation of the agriculture sector will help in enhancing productivity," he said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe applauded Government for supporting farmers both communal and commercial ahead of the summer cropping season.

Dr Makombe said the Government had made significant efforts in ensuring and facilitating the mechanisation of commercial farming after importing tractors from Belarus among other agricultural mechanisation programmes.

"We are happy with the support that Government has shown to farmers. Government has shown that it is committed to enhancing agricultural productivity in the country. Ideally commercial farming should be self-sustaining but our Government did not neglect us. They facilitated the mechanisation of agriculture and imported tractors.

As commercial farmers we are happy that the efforts have been complemented by the good rains. We are confident that we will also have better yields," he said.

While farmers have started on a high note, experts have warned that good rains are also associated with pests outbreak and both the Government and the farmers should start preparing in anticipation of the outbreaks.

Agriculture expert and agronomist Mr Ronnie Chigombe implored farmers to be wary of pests and other crop diseases that can affect the yield while also controlling weeds.

"Due to excessive rains being received in many parts of the country, those farmers who haven't planted are encouraged to plant as soon as the fields are workable. Those who have planted are advised to control weeds as they pose serious problem in attaining good yields.

We recommend spraying with wetters or stickers when applying post emergency herbicides. Farmers should split applying top dressing to avoid nutrients leaching. Even the use of urea fertiliser is also recommended. They should apply foliar fertiliser to cater for nutrients. Farmers should also scout and control pests such as fall armyworm," he said.

Global food agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have each year warned that pests such as fall armyworm could affect productivity in most Southern African countries.

African armyworm outbreaks tend to be devastating for farmland and pastures, with the highest-density outbreaks occurring during the rainy season after periods of prolonged drought.

Source - sundaynews
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