The Sunday Mail
Word from the market with AMA
The Government recently announced the pre-planting prices for several grains to guide farmers going into production. Sunflower is pegged at $150 636,20 per tonne and is the most lucrative price of all the grains and oilseeds for the 2021-22 season.
The price demonstrates a commitment by the Government to sustain the production trend for the oilseed which has been pointing upwards in the last two cropping seasons.
Coupled with Government input support to smallholder farmers, the 25 000 tonnes target for this year is within reach.
With the nation not producing sufficient edible oil to meet local requirements, there is a ready market for the crop that farmers can easily tap into. This article answers some of the questions related to the production of the sunflower crop. It is a follow-up to an article that was published in this column last year which highlighted the opportunities available in sunflower production in Zimbabwe.
Due to a change in climatic conditions, planting periods of several crops have been affected. The sunflower crop has not been spared. However, agronomist Mr Dennis Simbe says the ideal planting period for the sunflower crop is from mid-December to late January. This means that farmers who are interested in venturing into production this season still have a small window to plant.
Its commercial value also emanates from the fact that the crop has a short duration of maturity (90-120days depending on variety) and can be adapted into different cropping patterns.
The seed rate is 3-5kg/ha when using a planter and increases to about 8kg when planting manually.
Sunflower thrives well in climates ranging from arid under irrigation to temperate under rain-fed conditions and is sensitive to frost.
In Zimbabwe, natural region 3 is regarded as the most ideal to produce sunflowers.
The region is found in parts of the following provinces: Midlands, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Masvingo, and Matabeleland North.
Mr Simbe added, “Fertiliser requirement is dependent on soil type and recommendations based on soil analysis results. General recommendation is 200-250kg of compound L or cotton fert”.
“Yield per hectare is dependent on variety from about 1.5 for open-pollinated varieties to 3.5 tonnes for hybrid varieties.”
Common pests are cutworms at early emergence and bollworms at head formation.
There are no restrictions in the production and marketing of Sunflower. However, Statutory Instrument 140 of 2013 Agricultural Marketing Authority (Grain, Oilseed and Products) By-laws require buyers, brokers, contractors, processors, traders and or their respective associations to be registered with AMA.
In addition, every farmer is required to be registered with the Authority.
Zimbabwe has ideal climatic conditions for sunflower production.
The crop is good for the drier parts of the country and has immense benefits that arise from a low input cost, short growing period, and tolerance to dry conditions.
In the near past, the Midlands province has been leading when it comes to driving up production. However, regions that receive less rainfall such as Matabeleland can help drive up local production.
A small survey conducted by the Agricultural Marketing Authority assessing challenges in sunflower production revealed that perceived lack of market for the crop and highly informalised value chain are some of the major factors affecting local production.
However, with more information available especially on local edible oil requirements, venturing into sunflower farming presents an opportunity to increase income and livelihoods. Indeed, sunflower production by smallholder farmers speaks to and complements Government efforts of improving rural economies and turning around the lives of rural dwellers.
Word from the market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to promote market-driven production of crops. Agronomist Dennis Simbe contributed to this article. Feedback [email protected] or [email protected]