Zim’s agriculture sector requires $2 bln annually

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LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector requires $2 billion annually to raise local production and export earnings.

The new requirement comes at a time when the country is moving towards reducing an unsustainable import bill, reviving industry, creating jobs and mitigating an El Nino- induced drought.

Already, Head of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate at SADC secretariat, Domingos Gove has projected that the 2018/19 rainfall season could be affected by the El Niño phenomenon, which is usually associated with droughts in the region.

Given that this will have an impact on theZCFU outcome of the next agricultural season, there is need for government to invest heavily in irrigation infrastructure to mitigate these dry weather patterns.

Every year, the October to April rainfall season largely determines the main summer harvest for the region as crop agriculture is mainly rainfall dependent while irrigation is minimal.

ZCFU president Wonder Chabikwa told Business Times that the country needs to concentrate more on agriculture which anchors the economy.

“The country’s agriculture sector requires $2 billion annually to increase productivity and exports in the economy.

“If we could manage to get this kind of money for the sector every year, the country’s economy will certainly go up as the sector accounts for 50 percent of employment, 11 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and accounts for 25 percent of the country’s total exports,” Chabikwa said.

“Farmers may be given inputs such as fertiliser and seeds but with the El Nino- induced drought likely to affect us, there is need to revive and upgrade old irrigation schemes and begin new ones to produce all year round and mitigate drought every year.”

This development comes at a time when the country is moving towards building of more water infrastructure to increase productivity on farms and eliminate the over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture, which can easily be affected by El Nino and La Nina effects.

Government is planning to expand the country’s water infrastructure to irrigate about 350 000 hectares of land from the current 150 000 hectares.

Erratic distribution of rainfall poses downside risks for the rain fed crop production, livestock, human health, energy and sanitation. Therefore, there is a compelling need to invest in water infrastructure.

Chabikwa said government is doing an excellent job to capacitate small holder farmers by sinking boreholes and constructing dams, however some ways should be done to ensure small scale farmers are food secure.

“We are aware that various small holder farmers’ irrigation schemes are going on smoothly but to those areas where the schemes have not yet started, we are advising our farmers to practice conservative farming in order to produce enough yields for their families.

“Those who have draught power can make dip furrows which can keep moisture for a long time while those who don’t have draught power can dig down with hoes to safeguard humidity,” he said.

2018/2019 summer cropping season
Farmers have started receiving inputs for the 2018-19 summer cropping season, with land preparations already in full throttle.

Buoyed by last tobacco marketing season, over 88 000 tobacco growers have registered for the new season.

Some farmers have received inputs under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, while others who are beneficiaries of Command Agriculture have since registered for the programme with others having started receiving fuel for land preparations.

He said: “For farmers who are contracted under Command Agriculture, preparations have started.

“These farmers are currently registering for the programme. Some farmers are still mobilising inputs, while those under Command Agriculture have started receiving fuel for land preparations.”

Chabikwa said most farmers were not going to carry out the normal land preparations, but will go for zero tillage, which is faster.

Already, some agro-based companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, buoyed by the two successful agriculture seasons, have recorded impressive results, thanks mainly to the Government’s support schemes.

Built on a need to balance foreign currency savings and government spending, the government is impro vising to make the programme profitable.

Buoyed by the command maize success last year, government has extended Command Agriculture to other crops such as wheat, soyabean, and rice and livestock to cut the country’s trade deficit to sustainable levels.

According to statistics from the Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Ministry, command maize production has reportedly used $334 million this year, while command livestock, wildlife and fisheries are expected to use $300 million.

Soyabean requires $200 million, wheat production requires $200 million, while horticulture requires $120 million and rice needs $100 million. Meanwhile, economist Gift Mugano said there was need to diversify production to other crops as the country moves to increase production.

“We would like to thank tobacco farmers for beating the 1999/2000 tobacco output levels of 237 million, but such efforts should be done to other crops like cotton, horticulture to share the responsibility.

“We need more players to come in to help the revival of these crops, if we could have only 10 crops which give the country up to $1 billion like tobacco, the country will be home and dry as far as the foreign currency generation is concerned,” said Mugano.