The Sunday Mail
Government has not lost all hope in attaining a moderate harvest of food crops this agricultural season and anticipates cash produce like tobacco to perform better despite predicted low rainfall patterns.
Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Settlement Perrance Shiri told The Sunday Mail that Government was not abandoning its agricultural plans and had mobilised required inputs for farmers.
He said preparations for the 2018-2019 agriculture season started with timely distribution of inputs for food crops in June and the process is now in its final stages.
The availability of the inputs also coincided with the extension of support to tobacco farmers through the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
Government this year set aside at least US$78 million for tobacco production compared to US$24 million availed last year.
Despite the Government’s preparedness, erratic rains have seen most farmers fearing the possibility of a disastrous season.
Minister Shiri said 70 percent of the targeted 1,6 million households had since received agricultural inputs.
“We still remain hopeful that things will work out. To that extent we are saying whatever plans farmers have, they should include short season variety crops as well as small grains because these are well known to be drought resistance,” he said.
“Short season variety crops can do better if the length of the season is not conducive for the length of long season variety crops.
“I am happy to say that we have managed to mobilise required inputs. “We are slightly running behind schedule, but nevertheless we are determined to ensure that we provide farmers with all their requirements.
He said the Presidential Input Scheme was targeting 1,6 million plus households of which 70 percent had been catered for already.
“We are busy ensuring that we deliver the remaining inputs to those farmers who haven’t received inputs.“The delay was caused by flow of the inputs, but I am happy to say that the situation has greatly improved.”
Minister Shiri said the Command Agriculture scheme had faced minor glitches with the private sector, which partnered Government to secure inputs, facing challenges in accessing foreign currency to purchase them.
He, however, said the technicality had since been rectified and farmers were now receiving fertilizers and agro chemicals.
Minister Shiri added that there was need for farmers to effectively manage livestock pasture.
“There is need to carry out controlled grazing as per pasture management so that we do not exhaust all available resources within a short space of time,” he said.
Minister Shiri assured the nation that in the event of a failed crop production, the country had mechanism to ensure both human and animal life is not under threat from starvation.
Weather experts have forecast an El Nino in the Southern parts of Africa with a potential to cause flash floods or drought.