Zimbabwe could salvage a reasonable output of up to over one million tonnes of cereals if the constant rainfall patterns persist up to March but hopes of a bumper harvest could be lost due to prolonged dry season, agricultural experts have said.
The development comes at a time when the government was banking on a stellar agricultural season to turn around economic fortunes and cut ballooning import bill.
In his 2020 National Budget presentation, Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube projected a gross domestic product growth of 3% driven by agriculture.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director, Paul Zakariya, told Business Times that not all hope is lost in this current farming season as constant rains will improve the yields till the end of the season.
“If rains continue pounding [like what happened in the past week and over the weekend] till mid-March, yields will definitely improve and the country will certainly reduce agriculture imports thereby saving elusive foreign currency.
“We will continue having that hope of continuous rainfall patterns but the yields won’t be as good as we had expected,” Zakariya said.
Farmers have been weeding, applying fertiliser and planting short season varieties such as beans, sunflower and other cereals like sorghum, millet and rapoko after most parts of the country received rains last week.
Some parts of Mashonaland Central Province recorded above 60 millimetres of rainfall.
Meteorological Services Department (MSD) senior forecaster, James Ngoma, said the highest rainfall was received on Thursday at Mupfurudzi Resettlement (64 millimetres), Arcturus (61 mm), Wedza (43mm), Mt Darwin (43mm), Chipinge (39mm) and Harare Golf Club (39mm).
MSD forecast that the country is likely to receive good rainfall till end of February.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Wonder Chabikwa, said some farmers are planting appropriate crops such as cowpeas, sugar beans and short-season varieties of other crops.
“Though the hope has been restored in the 2019/2020 summer cropping season, there is need for farmers to capitalise on the current rainfall patterns to improve their crop quality.
We hope that the rains will continue but farmers should practice conservative farming methods to keep the maize in good condition in drying times,” Chabikwa said.
“We hoped for a bumper harvest, however, with a month long drought, there has been a shift but something can be salvaged as far as the harvests are concerned.
Farmers should also take advantage of the rains to harvest water in order to irrigate crops during the times of need.”
Seed Co chief agronomist, Wendy Madzura, said farmers should adopt smart agriculture crops which will help them to guard against climate change effects.
“It is high time farmers should start to adopt very short season varieties and small grains crops including cereals like millet, rapoko and sorghum, pulses or legumes and oil seed crops which are suited for dry conditions,” Madzura said.