Source: 1,2m hectares put under maize | The Herald February 3, 2017
Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Farmers have put 1,2 million hectares under maize this season, representing a 61 percent increase from last season’s 773 968 hectares that were put under the crop.
The increase in the area put under maize has been attributed to Command Agriculture and the favourable rainfall season.
Presenting the crop update yesterday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said the situation was pleasing this year and the high rains had benefited the crop.
He said it was too early to give yield estimates, but indicated the condition of the crop was satisfactory.
Minister Made said farmers who had a dry land crop were having challenges with top dressing fertiliser.
He said he was working with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on how best they could assist fertiliser manufacturing companies.
“There have been an increase in the plantings of cereals, oil seeds and cash crops,” said Minister Made.
“A total of 1 243 624ha have been put under maize as compared to 773 968 ha last year.
“This year, sorghum plantings have increased by 118 percent to 188 430 hectares from 86 000ha last season.
“Pearl millet (mhunga) has increased by 120 percent from 56 201 ha to 188 124 088 ha, while finger millet increased by 54 percent from 24 381 ha last year to 37 511 ha this year.
“We have a good and big crop assuming the rains continue and we do not have the mid-season drought. We normally experience the mid-season dry spell from January 14 onwards and we hope we will be able to override the dry spell and look forward to southern parts of the country reaching maturity to harvesting.”
Minister Made said there have been an increase of 37 percent in groundnuts, with farmers having planted 206 000 ha compared to 151 000 ha last year.
“Unfortunately, soya bean productions has declined by 43 percent from the 29 730 ha planted last season to 17 000 ha this season,” he said. “This is because some farmers are still planting. Farmers who traditionally grow soya beans grew maize under command agriculture this season. Soya bean is a good crop and we would have wanted a bigger crop.”
Minister Made said the cotton sector had benefited from the second phase of the Presidential Inputs Scheme and commended Cottco management for managing the facility well.
He said 155 000 hectares were put under cotton compared to 105 000 ha last year, registering an increase of 49 percent.
“The quality of the crop is good, but it is now at the critical stage where pests and diseases set in,” he said. “We should remain alert to the fall army worm as it does not only attack maize. The worm can also attack cotton, tobacco and other various crops.
He said cotton farmers would this season also benefit from the five percent export incentive facility.
Minister Made urged farmers to deliver their grain to the Grain Marketing Board.
“The price of maize will remain at $390 per tonne,” he said. “GMB should now start preparing to rehabilitate silos. We will also assist farmers in the harvesting their crops.
“Combine harvesters and shelling machines will be made available to farmers. We are also going to avail crop driers so that farmers can harvest early and prepare for the winter cropping season early.
“I must really commend farmers. They have battled with shortage of fertilisers as demand has been very high as it relates to cotton, tobacco and special maize programme under command farming. To achieve target yield you must have adequate fertiliser. Farmers have also battled with army worm.
“We commend farmers that they have done well and the quality of the crop is high although some farmers did not get adequate inputs. There are some farmers still struggling to get top dressing fertilisers.”
Command agriculture was introduced by Government to reduce grain imports and farmers were given seed, fertilisers, chemicals and machinery under the programme.
Under the command programme, Government expects two million tonnes of maize.