Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
PROSPECTS of a bumper harvest have further been brightened as the area under maize crop increased by 500 000 hectares in February alone, as some farmers only planted after realising the country was receiving good rains, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said hopes of improved crop yields for the 2016/17 farming season were high and proceeded to partially pre-empt the plant hectarage to Sunday News before the official announcement of the first crop assessment results.
He said some farmers who had doubted that the country would receive good rains had to plant later resulting in an additional 500 000 hectares going towards maize while the total hectarage for food crops was estimated to be 2,2 million.
“We are now going to release the first round of the crop assessment results in full thereafter we come to the second round.
However, as it stands the total hectarage of the planted maize has even gone up. I will soon be announcing the final hectarage but it now stands at 1,7 million of hectares planted on maize alone. For all these other crops such as sorghum, pearl millet and rapoko we are somewhere above 500 000 hectares. So we are talking of a hectarage put under grain of 2,2 million hectares compared to last year when we had a drought we didn’t plant that much. As for cotton we should be around 200 000 hectares,” he said.
Maize is a major income earner among farmers (small and large) and a significant contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Dr Made said the Government has since stopped grain imports but would continue to distribute maize to drought prone areas.
“We have already stopped importing grain and we are only allowing those that we had earlier issued permits to do so (import) as we are now focusing on harvesting. In terms of distributing grain under the drought relief programme we will continue to supporting areas such as Matabeleland South Province, parts of Masvingo and Midlands provinces and the southern parts of Manicaland . . .” he said.
Dr Made said the country’s livestock was also in good condition stating that there was a need for farmers to adequately prepare for the oncoming dry period. He said livestock will soon come under Command Agriculture, with farmers getting government support in terms of inputs. Dr Made also hinted that wheat, horticultural crops and sugarcane would also be put under Command Agriculture. He added that farmers should ensure that they use fertiliser to maximise on yields. Dr Made said the country was also expecting good small grains yield, like ground nuts and pearl millet.