The Chronicle

Elita Chikwati, Harare Bureau
Government has contracted more than 71 000 hectares for maize and soya bean production under Command Agriculture, as preparations for the 2018/19 summer cropping season progress.

Presenting on Command Agriculture and the state of preparedness for the 2018/19 cropping season at the recent sixth annual agribusiness conference, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, and chairman of the Integrated Command Agriculture Taskforce, Mr Justin Mupamhanga said contracting of farmers under Command Agriculture was underway.

He said farmers had committed over 208 250 hectares for Command Agriculture.

“Mobilisation of inputs is in full swing with the distribution of inputs in progress,” said Mr Mupamhanga. “To date, 198 482 hectares have been registered and 70 266 hectares have been contracted under maize respectively.

“A total of 9 770 hectares have been registered under soyabeans, with 1 264 hectares being contracted. Meanwhile, 40 000 tonnes of basal fertiliser have been secured by the financier as at August 28, 2018.”

Mr Mupamhanga said Command Agriculture had become popular with farmers and that it had improved productivity on most farms.

“Command Agriculture has galvanised the whole farming community and generated a lot of excitement,” he said. “The programme has turned farming into business ventures and farms are no longer regarded as weekend leisure resorts.

“All participants in the programme feel, act and are motivated by one rallying call – national food security. The success of the programme has ensured that the country is food sufficient and no longer imports maize, thereby saving on foreign currency.

“The country can now focus on development and not issues of the stomach.”

Mr Mupamhanga said the programme had attracted new financiers into the agro-sector, namely Sakunda Holdings, and Home Link, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and contractors namely National Foods, Northern Farming and Staywell.

The success of Command Agriculture resulted in Government extending the programme to livestock, poultry, small ruminants, piggery, fisheries and wildlife production.

Mr Mupamhanga, however, said Command Agriculture had also faced challenges that were affecting other farmers in the sector such as shortage of foreign currency.

He said the shortage of combine harvesters, dryers and threshers had adversely affected the transition from summer maize to winter wheat cropping.

“In the beginning, the programme targeted to put 200 000 hectares under irrigation, but this was not to be as most of the irrigation infrastructure required rehabilitation,” said Mr Mupamhanga.

“To date, 75 041 hectares of contracted land is irrigable. To expedite irrigation, Government has made a commitment to put 300 000 hectares under irrigation by the year 2020. Strategies are already underway to meet this national demand.”

During the 2017/18 season, a total of 176 892ha of maize was planted compared to 171 255ha in the 2016/2017 season, while 21 743ha of soyabean was planted during the 2017/2018 season.