Govt focuses on meeting grain production targets

17 Sep, 2023 - 00:09 0 Views
Govt focuses on meeting grain production targets

The Sunday Mail

Theseus Shambare

GOVERNMENT plans to put “every available irrigable square inch of land” under maize in the 2023-2024 summer cropping season to ensure the country meets its grain production targets, despite the forecast below-average rainfall.

The authorities have since mobilised over 360 000 tonnes of agricultural inputs, including seed and fertiliser, to support smallholder farmers under the Climate-Proofed Presidential Input Scheme (Pfumvudza/Intwasa).

Weather experts believe this year’s cropping season will likely be affected by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which typically leads to delayed and below-normal rainfall.

The Sunday Mail has learnt that the authorities are pulling all the stops to achieve its targets through distributing inputs ahead of commencement of the farming season, rehabilitating dysfunctional and idle irrigation schemes, as well as supporting climate-smart agriculture.

Presently, more than 203 000 hectares are irrigable.

This year, about two million hectares will be put under maize production, while traditional grains such as sorghum (350 000ha) and pearl millet (200 000ha) will account for part of the targeted grain output.

Government is targeting cereal production of 3 512 658 tonnes — 2,8 million tonnes of maize and 712 658 tonnes of traditional grains and oil seeds — which are enough to meet the country’s human consumption requirements.

The country needs about 2,2 million tonnes of grains annually.

Distribution of inputs to the targeted 3,5 million beneficiaries — which commenced on April 18 in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central province — is expected to be completed before the onset of the rains.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera said Government was leaving nothing to chance.

“Government has already started rolling out the summer cropping season plan for the year 2023/2024,” he said.

“In light of the predicted normal to below-normal rainfall, the Government has adopted a plan of action dubbed AMA — Adaptation, Mitigation, Action.

“AMA encompasses a set of initiatives whose thrust focusses on action and deployment of Going4Growth-plus measures as we gear for the 2023/2024 season.”

The measures, he said, include the accelerated rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure through a “quick fix” programme, a countrywide adoption of Pfumvudza/Intwasa and promotion of on-farm feed formulations with climate-smart fodder options.

“Every available irrigable square inch of land should be cultivated to maize; we are promoting and intensifying in-field water and moisture harvesting. Every drop counts and must be conserved.”

In addition, he said, Government will “improve season preparedness through early inputs distribution informed by agro-ecological potential matching”.

“There will be a bias towards growing traditional/small grains,” he added.

“A healthy animal or crop stands a ‘bad season’ better, hence adoption of GAPs (good agricultural practices) is encouraged at all times.”

Dr Basera said “all the dominoes are lined up” for a productive season, adding that timely distribution of inputs will enhance production and productivity.

“Input distribution has started and we are targeting to have covered some good ground by mid-October.

“This is one of the critical success factors for a successful seamless 2023/2024 agricultural season.

“There is enough seed, fertilisers and agrochemicals to support the execution of the 2023/2024 summer cropping plan.”

According to the weekly Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services (AARDS) directorate report dated September 14, the authorities have built up stocks of 15 569 tonnes of maize seed and 15 370 tonnes of sorghum seed.

In addition, 167 022 tonnes of Compound D fertiliser have been secured, while an equal amount of topdressing fertiliser has also been purchased.

A survey by this publication last week showed that most seed and fertiliser manufacturers and distributors were ready for the cropping season.

Valley Seeds spokesperson Mr Tich Maponga said there was adequate seed in the market.

“We have intensified the processing, packaging and distribution to various places,” he said.

“Our aim is to produce enough seed, that is, about 16 000 tonnes of seed for farmers to plant on time.

“Trucks are currently taking the seed maize to GMB depots and shops so that farmers have access.”

Fertiliser Seed Grain (FSG), a manufacturer of fertilisers, has intensified production of basal fertiliser at its plant in Bindura, with distribution to GMB depots presently ongoing.

“We have mobilised adequate raw materials for this summer season,” said FSG projects manager Mr MacDonald Mandere.

“The plant is always up and we are churning out at least 1 000 tonnes of basal fertiliser daily.”

Four distinct farmer support programmes have been set up for this year.

The National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (previously known as Command Agriculture) is targeting A2 farmers and will be administered through local banks CBZ, AFC and NMB.

Under the Presidential Input Support Programme, over three million beneficiaries will be supported with a standard input package comprising basal fertiliser, topdressing fertiliser, lime, chemicals and seed, including technical support by agricultural extension officers.

The Food Crops Contractors Association, a consortium of local private contractors, will support production of at least 40 percent of their grain requirements by funding farmers through contract farming, joint ventures or corporate farming.

In addition, Government has secured a US$25,5 million grant from the African Development Bank for an emergency food production programme by smallholder farmers, which is being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

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