By Shingirirai Mutonho
PREPARATIONS for the 2013/ 2014 cropping season are at an advanced stage with most farmers preparing the land and some having already planted irrigated tobacco.
Farmers are optimistic the season would be a success given the support from Government and the private sector.
Issues of inadequate funding and changing rainfall patterns have negatively affected not only the 2012/2013 cropping season but past seasons as well.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union second vice-president Berean Mukwende said farmers were busy in the fields preparing for the cropping season.
“Farmers are now doing land preparation and wait to plant on both irrigated and dry land,” he said.
“Most tobacco farmers with the irrigated crop started planting on September 1.”
During the past five seasons the then Finance Minister Tendai Biti came under fire for sabotaging the agricultural sector by underfunding it.
In the 2013 national budget the agriculture sector was allocated US$148 million against its annual requirement of US$800 million.
Concerns have also been raised by farmers over inadequate support received from other stakeholders such as banks and contractors as it has been minimal.
The move resulted in the country failing to produce adequate grain.
Zimbabwe requires two million metric tonnes of grain to meet its yearly requirements.
This season Government and the private sector have come forth with various support packages, which have been welcomed by the farmers.
Mukwende said farmers appreciated the support from Government and other stakeholders.
“The support is welcome and what is important is that the funds and inputs are availed in time so that once it starts raining farmers will be ready to plant,” he said.
For the forthcoming season Government has availed a US$161 million farming input support facility.
The scheme is expected to benefit 1,6 million households, mainly communal, old resettlement, small-scale and A1 farmers.
Under the scheme each household will receive 10 kilogrammes (kg) maize or small grain, 50kg Compound D fertiliser, 50kg Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser and 50kg lime.
In the past seasons concerns have also been raised by farmers over inadequate support received from other stakeholders such as banks and contractors as it has been minimal.l From Page 28
This has greatly affected the output resulting in the country having to import grain to make up for the deficit.
This season the private sector has shown it is confident in the ‘new’ Government and has heeded calls to support the agriculture sector.
The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe is injecting US$620 million into the sector, with CBZ chipping in with US$100 million.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will pump in US$19,25 million that is expected to assist more than 77 000 small holder farmers.
Mukwende said there was need for banks to inform the farmers early about the terms of the various schemes they were availing to ensure farmers make informed decisions.
“The conditions of the funds being availed by banks are not known by the farmers yet they are the ones to receive the funds,” he said, adding, “Time is of the essence hence the banks should let the farmers know the terms and conditions.”
Over the past seasons farmers have expressed concern over high interest rates that were charged by banks on loans.
Farmers have also lost out as a result of the changing rainfall patterns.
Traditionally the country receives its first rains mid October with planting commencing then.
Last year the country received rains late November yet farmers had begun to plant crops early October in anticipation of early rains.
The country then witnessed a dry spell, which stretched from January to early February.
The Meteorological Services Department has indicated that this season the country is expected to receive normal to above normal rainfall.
Mukwende said if the country expects to increase its production levels there is need for a long-term plan.
“Under the various financial schemes farmers are offered inputs and capital for labour but they have nothing to use to upgrade or rehabilitate machinery and conduct other activities on the farms,” he said.
“Most irrigation facilities have not been rehabilitated and this has affected farmers especially during dry spells as most crops end up wilting.”
Efforts, Mukwende said, should be made to come up with a strategy that would ensure that the country invests more in producing adequate grain and surplus to export.
“Farmers should also grow crops that are suitable for their regions, it is no use for farmers in dryer regions to grow maize yet they can grow small grains that do well under their conditions,” he said.
As preparations for the cropping season advance, it is hoped the agricultural sector will rebound, having registered a modest 4,6 percent growth in 2012.
It is, however, projected to grow by 6,4 percent in 2013.
Agriculture accounts for 15 percent of GDP, and contributes 16 percent to export earnings