The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe could harvest over 2,7 million tonnes of grain this season — the largest yield since 2000.
At the centre of that success story are President Mugabe’s Special Maize Production Programme (Command Agriculture) and the Presidential Well-Wishers Agricultural Input Support Scheme, whose outcomes will save Zimbabwe much foreign currency and create 100 000 jobs.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail on Good Friday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said President Mugabe was pleased with the tentative numbers.
“In terms of the actual figures of the projected harvest, we still need to extrapolate the data that we have, but I can safely say that the harvest of cereals put together is way above the figure of 2,7 million metric tonnes. This is the highest we have had in many years, maybe since we embarked on the Land Reform Programme.
“This is what the liberation struggle was all about. This is exactly what those who opposed land reform did not want to see.
“… Maize will be approximately two million metric tonnes based on the indications we have. We must not talk about maize alone, but other cereals such as pearl millet, finger millet and sorghum.
“I can tell you that the President is happy and has called on me to congratulate all the farmers who did well. The mood is buoyant from the President because he is happy for the country and happy for the individual farmers who have done so well.”
Dr Made went on: “The crop has reached full maturity because there was no mid-season dry spell in the majority of areas, except maybe in one or two odd areas such as Odzi and Buhera. We also had fertiliser challenges and this affected the crop in some areas.
“This season, most farmers used the long season seed variety. This has an advantage in that the cob is longer and richer but it also takes a long time to dry. Our biggest worry right now is the behaviour of the Grain Marketing Board. I will not accept any dereliction of duty from them, and it is unfortunate that there are already signs that they are short-changing farmers by not providing them with sacks.
“There is even some talk that farmers should bring their harvest in August. GMB has not had a harvest of this magnitude for many years, so I really want to call upon them to get their act together and not to be found wanting. They should put their house in order forthwith.”
The minister said the national grain storage system had been enhanced to cater for the grand harvest.
“I am happy that the GMB has been working hard on refurbishing the silos. We received US$8 million from millers for that and Treasury also provided us with funding. The mechanical repairs have been done. What is now left is just water-proofing.
“What people also need to understand is that the cylindrical silos hold just 700 000 metric tonnes of maize, while hard stand silos hold 3,4 million metric tonnes, with shed storage accounting for 200 000 metric tonnes. So, grain storage issue is not a crisis. We have the capacity, contrary to the reports.
“… What is important now is to secure this harvest by doing the right things. What we need to do is for the GMB to establish satellite depots so that farmers do not encounter problems in delivering the grain. We must also be alert to the dangers of fire. Fires can be a real danger and they can dampen the harvest if our farmers are not alert to the dangers.”
Dr Made said top international firms were keen to partner Zimbabwe after seeing its huge agriculture potential.
He implored cereal farmers to open bank accounts, promising payments would be made upon delivery to the GMB.
“One of our distinct advantages as an agriculture economy is that we produce original produce and not GMOs. We are beginning to receive huge interest from several countries around the globe who want to work with us.
“There is a top company from France whose representatives will visit the country in the next two weeks to consider investing in the agro-processing industry. We also have a company from India, which wants to partner us in providing grain bags as well as in the milling industry.
‘‘The prospects for employment and resuscitation of industry are going to be massive.” Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said up to 100 000 jobs could be created.
“Although enumeration – a head count – is yet to be conducted to ascertain those who were employed in the 2016/17 maize production season, I hazard to suggest that, given the land mass under maize, put the figure at 100 000 both on the farms and industries and agro-processing sector. The majority of these jobs are, admittedly, on short-term contract basis, but with potential to be available next season.”
Zimbabwe requires roughly 1,8 million tonnes of grain for both human and livestock consumption per year, but successive droughts have been stifling optimum production.
Government crafted the Agriculture Strategic Plan (2013-2018), which includes Command Agriculture to spur output.
The plan targets food self-sufficiency by 2018, with the country producing at least 2,55 million tonnes of cereals yearly.
It also prescribes annual production of 734 000 tonnes of high nutrition value crops like beans, cow peas, butternuts and groundnuts. The strategy seeks to increase milk output to 100 million litres per year from 60 million litres.