ZIMBABWE expects to harvest 900 000 tonnes of maize this year. This is an upward revision from the 800 000 tonnes initially forecast but is below the 1.8 million tonnes, the country consumes on an annual basis.
Initially, Zimbabwe had projected to harvest around 800,000 tonnes of grain but improved rainfall patterns in the past two weeks have changed the farmers’ fortunes. More rain is now expected countrywide until Saturday, February 16.
In a warning statement this week, the Meteorological Department said that the country will receive heavy rains from Wednesday February 13 to Saturday February 16 particularly in Manicaland and southern parts of the country.
Wonder Chabikwa, the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, says increased output will reduce the country’s import bill and save much needed foreign exchange.
“Though we don’t have the exact figures of the maize output this year, 900,000 tonnes will be attained as most crops in most parts of the country reacted well to the rains, which occured in the past week,” Chabikwa said.
“The preparations were not very good but the rains have not been as bad in January as last year. Various farmers spectacularly recovered from the February rains which improved even the early planted crop.”
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube says the country still has over 500,000 tonnes of strategic grain reserve which, added to the expected 900,000 tonnes, will give the country 1.4 million tonnes of grain.
If that comes true, the country will need to import around 400,000 tonnes to reach the 1.8 million-tonne annual national grain demand.
One estimate says the country could save up to $260m in maize imports if the current rains persist until the end of February.
According to Sheunesu Mpepereki, the chair of the Soyabean Promotion Taskforce, soyabean production is expected to improve this year due to better January rains compared to last year’s dry patch in January.
“The increase in hectarage and crop quality will also be helped by heavy February rains which have come at the right time of growth where most crops are at flowering or tasselling level,” said Mpepereki.
Last year, soyabean farmers only managed a total output of 50,000 tonnes as against a national demand of 300,000 tonnes. This year, estimates say between 80,000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes could be realised.
Meanwhile, tobacco output is expected to increase to around 260 million kilos from last year’s record output of 252 million kilos.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board public relations manager Isheunesu Moyo said tobacco output is projected to surpass last year due to increased hectarage and quality of the crop across the country.
Already, 168 847 farmers have registered to grow tobacco this season from 113 619 last season, which is a 49 percent jump.
Forex and cash inflows are expected to improve when tobacco auction floors open in mid-March this year.