The Sunday Mail
Farmers are confident the country will have a decent harvest this year following sustained rainfall in most parts of the country recently.
This is despite the fact that weather forecasters predicted largely below normal rains for the 2018/ 19 season.
Zimbabwe was forecast to be hit with an El Nino-induced drought this cropping season particularly in the January to March period.
However, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Wonder Chabikwa, said the rains had performed slightly above expectation since the beginning of the year.
As such, the national maize crop situation is reported to be generally good although there are reports of stress in traditionally drier regions.
“So if we receive rains as predicted by the Met department this week the country may end up having a decent harvest — more or less similar to the one we had last year,” he said.
“The reports we are getting from our members show that all three Mashonaland Provinces are doing well with some parts of Matebeleland South also said to be doing good.
“Crops in Masvingo and other traditionally drier regions such as Manicaland South and Matebeleland North are reported to be in distress. If the rains continue like this then we might have decent yields.”
Mr Chabikwa added that while the situation was looking good at present, the quality of the yield was dependent on how the remainder of the season pans out.
He said the maize crop is at its critical stage and will thus need lots of water.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya, said it was the northern parts of the country that had seen significant improvement in the crop.
“With the prevailing conditions in the last few days we have seen a significant improvement in the crop particularly in the northern parts of the country,” he said.
“The situation has improved quite a lot in the Mashonaland provinces and northern parts of Manicaland. However, there are some parts in the southern districts where the majority of the crop is now a write-off.
“We encourage farmers, given the prevailing weather conditions these seasons, to resort to short-term varieties.”
On Tuesday the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) warned that heavy rains in excess of 50mm could hit Manicaland and Matebeleland South provinces between Wednesday and yesterday.
The notice also included areas which have received erratic rains so far this season such as Masvingo and southern parts of Midlands provinces.
Heavy downpours have already been confirmed in some of these areas in the last four days and MSD expects the trend to gradually subside as the week progresses.
“Thereafter, the rains should steadily ease off giving way to bright and showery conditions in most areas, and localised heavier falls in some places,” says MSD.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record saying even if the country is to be hit with drought, it can still have enough cereal from Command Agriculture to satisfy national demand.
These revelations have put paid to fears that the country will face acute food insecurity this year.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have also doused fears that Zimbabwe will have to rely on imports to satisfy its cereal needs.
“Total cereal imports are forecast to remain at a below-average level in the 2018/ 19 marketing year (April/March), as the above-average 2018 harvest and large carryover stocks from 2017’s bumper output are expected to satisfy the bulk of this year’s consumption requirements,” says FAO in a recent report.
Zimbabwe was affected by erratic rains last season but still managed to harvest enough for national consumption owing to the successes of Command Agriculture.
According to FAO, cereal production last year was estimated at 1,94 million tonnes, 24 percent below 2017’s output, still well above the previous five year average.
“Maize production, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of the total cereal output, was estimated at an above-average level of 1,7 million tonnes, but 21 percent lower than 2017’s harvest,” says the FAO report.
“The reduced output in 2018 was mainly a result of a mid-season dry spell in January 2018, which caused a decline in yields, while unfavourable weather conditions at the start of the season contributed to a small contraction in the area planted.”
Should 2019 maize output match last year’s then Zimbabwe will be in a safe zone.
And this would have been achieved against a plethora of challenges which include an increased cost of inputs and the fall armyworm menace.
Mr Chabikwa said most farmers navigated these challenges bravely to the extent that the fall armyworm is now firmly under control.
“It was not easy, we faced so many problems and some we are still battling them,” he says.
“Fertiliser was quite a challenge, the prices are very high and this has affected the plans that we had. As for fall army worm I can say it is now under control, we now have effective chemicals and it has not posed much of a challenge this year.”