The Sunday Mail
The 2018-19 summer cropping is expected to get better funding due to improved logistics from Government and contractors, farmers have said.
This comes at a time when Government is already distributing farming inputs under the Command Agriculture programme and the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
Tobacco contractors are also reported to have covered a lot of ground in terms of providing required resources to farmers.
With most farmers having recorded improved returns during the last two seasons.
Experts are of the view that this year’s crop is better funded when compared to years in the last decade.
“In terms of funding, there appears to be great improvement this year,” Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Wonder Chabikwa said.
“There shouldn’t be any fears in tobacco because 80 percent of the crop is already under contract farming while the bulk of the remaining 20 percent is catered for by Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
“As for maize, Command Agriculture for commercial farmers and the Presidential Inputs Scheme for small holder farmers are all doing well this year.”
Marketing windows for most of last year’s maize, tobacco and cotton are still open but this is not expected to delay preparations.
As such, Mr Chabikwa said administrative preparations are going on fine, adding that most farmers are wrapping up harvests before beginning land preparation mid-September.
“Preparations begin with the mind and farmers are raring to go,” he said.
“Although most are still seized with harvesting and selling their products, we do not think this will affect preparations. The marketing season is still very much alive throughout the country because we had late rainfall last year.”
Early preparations and funding has this year been a high priority on Government’s agenda as they aim to arrest years of hunger and relying on food aid.
Mr Chabikwa was particularly impressed by the early kick-off of Command Agriculture and the Presidential Input Scheme.
“We are happy because both schemes started well in time, distribution of inputs under Command Agriculture is well under way as well as the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
“Machinery is, however, still a challenge, we wish the Government could also provide machinery under Command Agriculture.
“A lot of people have taken an interest in farming and if we mechanise the sector, the country could reap huge rewards from it.”
Government has this year set aside $497 million for agriculture. At nine percent of the $5,7 billion budget, the allocation is a slight improvement from last year’s seven percent.
In his budget presentation, the Finance and Economic Minister Patrick Chinamasa highlighted that it is important to build on last season’s gains.
“Building on the success and lessons from the first phase of the special maize and wheat programmes, Government has already mobilised the resources for the second phase of the programme to the tune of $266,4 million for maize and soya beans production,” he said.
“Under the Maize Command Programme, the target is to plant an area of 220 000 hectares under maize, of which 60 000 will be under irrigation, with the remainder under dry farming.”
While avenues of funding appear to be promising, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director, Mr Paul Zakariya said farmers are yet to benefit from the 99-year leases.
“There has not been any movement on that issue, the leases are still not bankable and up to now we haven’t had a single case of a bank that processed such payment or a farmer who received such payment.
“We hope that area can be addressed once and for all.”
On summer cropping preparations, Mr Zakariya said farmers are in the process of testing their soil as well as conducting other administrative planning.
“Farmers are still planning but land preparations will begin around September,” he said.
“As for now, some of our farmers are just finishing harvesting while others are testing ph levels for their soil.”
The 2018-2019 tobacco planting season commences with the irrigated crop this week, amid projections the final season’s harvest will surpass the 2017-2018 record output of over 245 000 kgs.
According to the TIMB, 88 224 growers have registered as tobacco growers this season with seed sales standing at 671 125 grammes equivalent to cover 111 854 hectares of the crop.
Experts have warned that Government should still be on the lookout for the Fall armyworm.
The pests infested about 150 000 hectares of maize last year and is expected to cause more problems this season.
Issues such as the selling of Government inputs and the shortage of fertilizer also caused problems last season and may pop up again if not addressed.
Seed manufacturing companies say Zimbabwe has adequate seed stocks to sustain requirements of farmers during the 2018-19 summer cropping season.
Increased yields in the farming sector are also expected to improve the contribution of the agriculture industry to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).