Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter—
Government has set a crop target of 1,5 million hectares of maize and 750 000 hectares of small grains as preparations for the 2015-16 summer cropping season gears up, a Cabinet minister has said. This year’s projections for small grains show an increase from 202 546 ha planted last year to this season’s 750 000 ha target as Government places special emphasis on small grains that are more tolerant to drought.
The target for maize crop remain unchanged at 1,5 million hectares. About $1,53 billion is required to fund the summer cropping season although the figures are still being updated. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made, yesterday said he was satisfied with the level of preparedness of all the players in the agricultural sector.
“We have set a minimum of 1,5 million hectares for maize, 250 000 ha for pearl millet, 250 000 ha for sorghum, 250 000 ha finger millet, 20 000 ha Irish potatoes, 50 000 ha sweet potatoes, 100 000 ha soyabeans and 259 ha of ground nuts. “There is better preparedness as it relates to all players in the agriculture sector for livestock and crop production. Cabinet approved a broad framework which is being translated into action plan.
“In line with this I am happy to note that the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe is preparing the actual facilities under commercial banks other than what Government is going to put. The banks have also lowered interest rates and this is important in reducing production costs on the part of farmers,” he said.
Banks used to offer interest rates of above 20 percent but they have reduced to a maximum of 18 percent. “I urge all farmers dealing with banks to really stick to the contracts especially when marketing the final commodities that would have been supported by the bank. They should not circumvent the bank to build credibility with the institutions,” he said.
Dr Made said Government will play an enabling role and critically look at the strategic crops. “The season is going to start slightly late and it is important that input suppliers move the seed and fertilisers to farming areas for easy access by farmers. Only seed breeders and input suppliers should give advice to farmers on the correct traits of their products. Farmers should not be confused by many people who offer advice and in some cases wrong information.
“The Grain Marketing Board is also going to make good what is owed to farmers. Treasury is going to pay farmers who delivered their grain since 2008. Some farmers delivered grain to GMB depots under a special facility in 2008 and they are going to get their money. GMB will also clear the balance of $12 million balance for the 2014-15 in the next 10 days.
Government has already paid for the wheat deliveries and will start paying for the 2015-16 maize deliveries soon. GMB will also pay some farmers, who in 2009, paid for fertiliser to the GMB using Zimbabwean currency. They will be given their fertilisers and will be informed on when and where to present their receipts for collection of the inputs,” he said.
He said the fertiliser package together with the Presidential Inputs Programme would cater for between 300 000 to 350 000 households who will be supported with inputs. “There will be special package for cotton. Farmers in traditional cotton growing areas should prepare for cotton as the crop is important especially during dry times. Farmers should desist from maintaining ratoons but should destroy the stalks after harvesting,” he said.
He said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Treasury were also working with the Meteorological Services Department to prepare for cloud seeding. Dr Made said the ministry will this season work with technical experts from Brazil, Egypt, India, China and Russia to intensify irrigation and mechanisation. He said some of the machinery from the countries would also assist in mitigating drier conditions.
“We should apply new technologies that are water saving. The District Development Fund under the Belarus Programme will be increasing the drilling machines to improve supply of borehole water for humans and livestock,” he said. I am grateful to the Food and Agricultural Organisation for their efforts in improving water situation. Zimbabwe expects normal to below normal rainfall during the 2015-16 season.