Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
A CRITICAL shortage of horticultural produce is looming across the country after most of the crops were damaged by the incessant rains.
As a result of the recent and almost constant rains throughout the country, most horticultural crops experienced stunted growth while those that were about to ripen were damaged.
The rain also increased the relative humidity, increasing the risk of disease development including the risk of scab on small grain crops that are starting to flower.
The Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) Matabeleland North provincial officer, Mr Dumisani Nyoni, said there was severe shortage of horticultural produce in his area of jurisdiction with the ripple effects being felt in Bulawayo where farmers market the bulk of their vegetables.
“Vegetables such as rape, cabbage and chomolia suffered from stem rot while tomatoes and potatoes were affected by blight.
If tomatoes are not exposed to enough sunlight they tend to crack and eventually have moulds,” said Mr Nyoni.
Potato and tomato blight, properly called late blight, is a disease of the foliage and fruit or tubers of tomatoes and potatoes, causing rotting. It is most common in wet weather.
Mr Nyoni said some of the crops were affected by pest as the incessant rains made it difficult for farmers to get into the fields and apply pesticides.
“Cabbages were also affected by diamondback moth because due to the persistence rains farmers failed to go into the fields to apply pesticides. I know of farmers that lost 10 000 to 20 000 heads of cabbages and up to 40 tonnes of potatoes,” he said.
Mr Nyoni said as a result of the shortage prices of vegetables had skyrocketed.
“If you look at a bungle of chomolia which costs $1 it’s now going for $3 and above while a bucket of tomatoes is as high as $28 because the demand is now outstripping the supply side. Most of the butternuts and tomatoes, which are on the market at the moment and were harvested under the wet conditions, have a short shelf life,” he said.
Umguza Irrigation Lot chairman Mr Antony Khephe Dube said most farmers who cropped horticultural produce had most of their produced destroyed by the rains.
“Most of the farmers lost most of their produce due to the heavy rains and since farming is a business it surely impacted negatively on them. Those who were lucky were the ones that had cropped maize because most of the crop managed to withstand the severe wet conditions,” said Mr Dube.
Umguza District is Matabeleland North’s prime farming area and a major supplier of horticultural produce to Bulawayo and surrounding areas.
One of the most enterprising horticultural producers in Umguza Mrs Anonata Manzini said she lost virtually all her produce to the torrential rains.
“We suffered a very big setback due to the rains, three quarters of our 50 000 heads of cabbages were destroyed and we lost a hectare of butternuts while our chomolia was also affected. We have, however, started cropping now,” she said.
Midlands Agritex provincial officer Mr Peter Chamisa, however, said only a few farmers in his area were affected by the rains.
“Most of our farmers’ horticultural produce is actually in a good state now because they concentrated on cropping maize which wasn’t affected much but of course they are some that might have had a bit of their commercial horticultural produce affected but otherwise the traditional horticultural crop is in a good state,” he said.