Zim will be a net wheat exporter by 2025

22 Jan, 2023 - 00:01 0 Views
Zim will be a net wheat exporter by 2025

The Sunday Mail

The agriculture sector has been growing in leaps and bounds under President Mnangagwa’s administration. A number of interventions have helped spur growth in the sector, which is one of the key anchors of Zimbabwe’s economy. Our Correspondent WALLACE RUZVIDZO (WR) spoke to Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera (JB) about agricultural prospects for this year.


WR: Can you outline the prospects of the agriculture sector this year?

JB: The agriculture sector has grown in leaps and bounds since the advent of the Second Republic, positively responding to deliberate interventions and initiatives across various crop and livestock value chains.

Resultantly, the sector’s growth is now past an inflection point and is on a sustainable rebound.

The sector is now in good stead to continuously attain food and nutrition security while contributing to foreign currency generation through exports, employment creation, as well as providing raw materials to industry, and, ultimately, supporting sustainable inclusive economic growth.

Notwithstanding the challenges imposed by the scourge of Covid-19, prevalence of pest and diseases and climate change realities and impacts, in 2021, the sector grew by over 36,4 percent from US$5,9 billion to US$8,1 billion, and the cereals production surpassed three million tonnes.

Although the production of cereals slumped 40 percent in 2022, the country produced a record harvest of wheat that surpassed self-sufficiency requirements of 360 000 tonnes by over 5 percent for the first time in decades.

The 2023 National Budget estimated agriculture sector growth to reach 4 percent, and the ministry wishes to stretch this target to 10 percent.

It is quite ambitious but achievable.

The ministry is assured of positive growth spin-offs to be realised from effective implementation of the sector blueprints, and, more importantly, successes registered to date through the implementation of the Agriculture Recovery Plan, Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan, Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan, as well as the Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme, among other agriculture climate-proofing initiatives.

This anticipated growth is expected to be largely driven by key value chains such as maize, wheat, oil seed crops, tobacco, horticulture, the national cattle herd and the dairy sub-sector.

The ministry is confident of the upward growth, as there is already positive response to current and planned Government programmes to spur rural transformation and development.

This will underpin the envisaged growth.

The ministry has dubbed the entire pro-rural programming Rural Development 8.0, which comprises the following eight Presidential interventions:

  1. The Presidential Climate-Proofed Input Scheme, popularly known as Pfumvudza/Intwasa, which targets three million farming beneficiaries in rural areas.

Under the productive social programme, farmers are supported with a standard input package comprising seed, fertilisers, fall armyworm chemicals and extension support.

The programme also entails a countrywide adoption of conservation agriculture techniques to aid climate-proofing of the agriculture sector, which is vulnerable to the effects and variabilities of climate change.

  1. The Presidential Cotton Programme. This is productive social support extended to 520 000 beneficiaries in cotton-growing areas. They are provided with a standard cotton input package.
  2. The Presidential Blitz Tick Grease Scheme extended to one million cattle-owning households. Each receives a kilogramme of tick grease.

This is a smart stop-gap intervention to help contain tick-borne disease cases and mortalities, especially the January disease.

  1. The Presidential Rural Development Programme.

Its targets are the drilling of one borehole in each of the 35 000 villages in the country, and establishment of commercial integrated one-hectare farm business hubs with four components, namely, a village nutrition/income garden, fish ponds, village free-range poultry run and village orchard for a cooperative of 50 women- and youth-led households.

  1. The Presidential Community Fisheries Scheme, which is aimed at providing fish ponds at all irrigation schemes and integrated village farm business centres.

The programme will stock all dams in the country to upscale income and nutrition security at household level.

  1. The Presidential Poultry Scheme, which is supporting three million beneficiaries with 10 chicks each to ensure household nutrition and income security by the year 2025.
  2. The Presidential Goat Scheme supporting 600 000 vulnerable households with bucks and does, targeting to upscale the nutrition and income security at household level.
  3. The irrigation-based Vision 2030 Accelerator Model, which will support several households by resuscitating irrigation schemes. It will adopt a scheme business management model, which is fronted by the Agriculture Rural Development Authority to ensure the viability of irrigation schemes.

The irrigation resuscitation drive is being funded by Treasury under the 200ha/district/year programme, as well as efforts by development agencies such as IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).

WR: What is the anticipated growth anchored in?

JB: As indicated earlier, Rural Development 8.0 entails a set of inclusive, development-oriented interventions targeting crop and livestock sub-sectors.

A robust monitoring, evaluation and learning system will be adopted to ensure all planned activities in the various programmes are executed timeously.

All interventions under Rural Development 8.0 are going to be subjected to this rigorous tracking system.

Scrutiny and vigilance will be directed at the Presidential Climate-Proofed Cereal Production Scheme benefitting over three million people in rural areas.

This will ensure every inch of the soil is tilled to achieve food self-sufficiency starting at household level.

Similarly, the Presidential Climate-Proofed Cotton Initiative targeting 520 000 rural beneficiaries will provide the much-needed impetus in the cotton sub-sector.

Other interventions that will culminate in the growth of the sector include the containment of tick-borne diseases in livestock.

The Presidential Blitz Tick Grease Scheme benefitted over one million cattle-owning households, each receiving one kilogramme of tick grease.

Deaths related to tick-borne diseases in livestock will be averted, and along with improvements in calving and off-take rates, the livestock sub-sector will anchor the envisaged growth.

There is also the Presidential Community Fisheries Scheme, which is aimed at providing fish ponds in each of the 35 000 villages.

Further, the Presidential Poultry and Goat Schemes have targeted three million households each.

Thus, expectations are high this year to achieve growth of over 10 percent.

In addition to the Government-funded rural development programming, private sector participation and contribution cannot be overemphasised in the envisaged growth.

This is, more importantly, a cross-cutting imperative for the attainment of Vision 2030 objectives, and, as such, the ministry is crowding in the private sector in key strategic programming such as irrigation development through the Irrigation Development Alliance, Mechanisation Development Alliance (for mechanisation) and NEAPS (National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme), popularly known as Command Agriculture, now funded by banks.

Further, Government — through the ministry, in consultation with the private sector — has introduced a policy that compels private sector off-takers and users of agricultural commodities to have at least 40 percent of their respective annual requirements through local production by supporting local farmers.

This policy stance has started to bear fruit since its promulgation in 2020.

In 2022, the private sector contributed over 57 000ha (over 71 percent) of wheat production in Zimbabwe.

A consortium of private sector millers and processors called the Food Crops Contractors Association was formed with Government support in 2020, and has been contributing significantly to food production and import substitution.The whole-of-Government approach in programming and execution of initiatives — while engaging in mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations with the private sector, development partners, agencies and line ministries — will provide the much-needed impetus to reach these targets.

The ministry is still confident that the planned target of producing over 2,9 million tonnes of maize from over 1,9 million hectares is possible given that to date, over 1,5 million hectares (as at January 5, 2023) have been established, which is 36 percent up compared to 1,1 million hectares achieved around the same period last year.

The dairy sector is also expanding as witnessed by a jump of 14,3 percent from 79,6 million litres produced in 2021 to 91 million litres in 2022.

Similarly, the horticulture sector is fast expanding, given the commitment by Government and the successful establishment of the US$30 million Horticulture Export Revolving Fund, through which horticulture exporters have already started benefiting.

For example, blueberry export production increased by 34 percent from 3 500 tonnes in 2021 to 4 700 tonnes in 2022.

This sub-sector is poised to reach an output of 6 500 tonnes by the end of 2023 from a planned land area of 470ha.

The same growth trend subsists in all the other horticulture sub-sectors.

The ministry has already started planning for the 2023 winter wheat production with a view to increasing production by over 10 percent from the achieved 375 000 tonnes.

The target is to make Zimbabwe a perennial net exporter of wheat by the year 2025.

Overall, the total area under crop production is expected to expand by 18 percent from 3,3 million hectares to 3,9 million hectares.

Over and above a number of farmer support programmes being implemented, the ministry is working intensively on the capacitation of extension workers.

This is anticipated to play a pivotal role in contributing to the envisioned growth. Irrigation development and an increase in mechanisation services capacity are also expected to spur growth.

Concerted and consistent efforts in irrigation rehabilitation and development are bearing fruit.

The area under irrigation increased from 175 000ha in 2020 to 193 000ha in 2022.

This is critical to climate-proofing and de-risking the agriculture sector.

Since 2020, Government expended over US$2 billion towards water harvesting and dam construction efforts.

We expect this incredible investment to start bearing fruit in terms of sustainably spurring agricultural growth.

Hectarage under tobacco is up by 4 percent at 117 000 as at January 10, 2023, compared to 112 000ha in the same period in 2022.

This is coming against the backdrop of a marginal growth by 1 percent from 211,1 million kg produced during the 2020/2021 production season to 212,7 million kg in the 2021/2022 season.

Furthermore, income or revenue to farmers increased by 10 percent from US$589,5 million in the 2020/2021 season to US$650,3 million in 2021/2022.

All the dominoes are lined up for the anticipated significant growth of the sector.

Current reflections on the Going4Growth mantra indicate that, as at January 10, 2023, the area put under soya bean is 47 203ha, up by 24 percent from 37 990ha in the same period last year.

Similarly, the area under sorghum production is up by 19 percent, from 216 741ha in 2021 to 258 297ha in the 2022/2023 period.

The area under cotton production is up by 22 percent, from 141 036ha recorded on January 10, 2022 to 172 295ha in the 2022/2023 season.

WR: Can you elaborate on what the Going4Growth mantra entails?

JB: Our mantra, Going for Growth (G4G2023), is born out of the realisation that all the fundamentals in terms of plans, strategies and policies are in place to facilitate the smooth transition to sustainable growth, notwithstanding climate change challenges.

As such, the sector is targeting nothing less than sustained growth and transformation of the sector anchored in seamless transitioning of farmers from subsistence-oriented farming to commercial farming for surplus and commerce.

The Going4Growth mantra is anchored in growth of the four Ps — production, productivity, profitability and partnerships.

Productivity (yield growth) will be at the core this fiscal year (2023).

According to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), allocating 10 percent of the national fiscal resources (budget) to the agriculture sector results in an annual growth of the sector by at least 6 percent, thus, making the sector’s growth target an effective pathway to reduce poverty.

This is our sure way of achieving the objectives and imperatives of Vision 2030.

To trigger productivity growth, breaking the information asymmetry is critical.As such, the flow of valuable agriculture-related information to instantly resolve farming-specific inquiries, issues and emerging concerns will be the new normal in 2023.

In view of this, the ministry is engaging and capacitating every farmer through the dissemination of sound agricultural advisory notes on a platform dubbed AgricTips365.

This undertaking is done on a 24/7/365 basis.

The advisory tips focus on aspects of technical production, marketing and agri-prenuership across all agricultural enterprises.

In all sub-sectors, the bold thrust is to consolidate and intensify the discharge and delivery of all specialised programmes to guarantee food and nutrition security.

To catalyse this growth, market-oriented production will be key, while focusing on import substitution and exports.

Ultimately, the ministry is targeting productivity gains that will result in yield growth for export growth.

The national herd is expected to reach six million and food production is expected to be over three million tonnes.

To entrench further growth and contribution by the sector, the ministry is deliberately promoting on-farm and off-farm value addition.

In summary, the Going4Growth mantra entails Going4YieldGrowth — producing more on less and more for less, optimising land utilisation, reducing mortalities in the livestock sub-sector, and going up the ladder (value addition) on tobacco, cotton and horticultural produce.

The ministry is courting increased participation from private sector and development partners, as well as mainstreaming women and youths in the programmes aimed at agricultural rural transformation and development.

The year 2023 will ride on the growth momentum set in 2021 and 2022, as the ministry targets the 3S growth fashion — sharp/significant growth, smart growth and sustained growth in 2023.

WR: With 2023 being an election year, how much is this expected to impact the agriculture sector?

JB: The support the ministry has been receiving and is currently receiving from Central Government and other MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) is incredible.

The likelihood of dampened growth because of election fever is close to zero percent.

All eyes are on the goal, and the goal is Vision 2030, as eloquently pronounced by His Excellency, President Mnangagwa.

The sector is indeed a Vision 2030 accelerator and is poised for growth!

WR: What is the target for raw milk production this year?

JB: As mentioned earlier, milk powder imports declined by about 17 percent from 8,9 million kg in 2021 to 7,4 million kg in 2022.

This was a result of a 14,3 percent increase in milk production from 79,6 million litres in 2021 to over 91 million litres in 2022.

The target for 2023 is to further reduce milk imports by expanding milk production to about 105 million litres.

This will be achieved by increasing the number of dairy cattle, as well as increasing productivity per dairy cow from the current average of 15 litres per cow per day to 18 litres per cow per  day.

A number of supporting initiatives underway, like the Presidential Silage Programme, are expected to support over 2 000 smallholder dairy farmers with a one-hectare silage input package.

Similarly, banks are going to support command silage, which is a commercial facility targeting medium and large dairy enterprises.

Banks will recoup the capital outlay through a stop-order arrangement with private off-takers and processors.

Levies on milk and milk product imports will be channelled through the Dairy Development Fund for the expansion of the dairy herd.

WR: To what extent is Government promoting the expansion of the agriculture sector’s export capacity?

JB: The ministry is seized with initiatives targeting increased production and productivity of crops and livestock, with the ultimate view of exporting the surplus.

Further, high-value non-food crops like industrial hemp are being promoted.

There has been a deliberate focus on establishing the appropriate marketing and trade infrastructure that includes the cold and dry chain systems to ensure the minimum standard of sanitary and phytosanitary requirements is met.

A lot is being done to connect farming communities with Asian, Middle East and European markets.

Many opportunities abound in Zimbabwe’s bilateral and regional cooperation within SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and the rest of Africa.

Recently, the country signed a citrus trading protocol with the People’s Republic of China and is now working on the modalities to increase citrus production so that the country benefits from this massive exportation window.

To buttress this, Government has also established a Horticulture Export Development Fund to support the production of export-oriented horticultural commodities.

To install infrastructure required to meet GlobalG.A.P. standards, Government is supporting farmers and agricultural production entities by providing investment incentives such as rebates of duty for capital equipment, VAT exemptions, VAT deferments, special economic zones, and prescribed asset status.

These contribute to enhanced production, reduce the cost of production and allow competitive linkages to export markets by the local farming community.


Twitter: @RuzvidzoWallace


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