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US$600m set aside for 2023/24 farming season

Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]

GOVERNMENT has set aside over US$600 million for the 2023/24 farming season while the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe has committed $68 billion and US$160 million as the Second Republic steps up efforts to boost food security.

All the 460 irrigation schemes across the country will be put under irrigation during the summer cropping season to complement the Intwasa/Pfumvudza programme which is aimed at increasing yields in the face of the looming El Nino.

Weather experts have predicted a normal to below normal rainfall in most parts of the country and farmers have been encouraged to make sure they harvest water to mitigate against the effects of poor rains.

The three zones (Region 1, 2, and 3) will have a higher probability of receiving normal to below normal rainfall for most of the sub-seasons that make the period October 2023 to March 2024. 

The bulk of Matabeleland North province, parts of Midlands covering Gokwe North and South districts, and parts of Matabeleland South province are expected to receive below-normal to normal rainfall, while normal rainfall with a bias towards below-normal rainfall is highly likely for the remaining provinces.

The rainfall is expected to be erratic in space and time, with violent storms, prolonged dry spells, flash floods and tropical cyclones as the season progresses.

In his post-Cabinet briefing yesterday, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Dr Jenfan Muswere said Government received and considered the report on the update on preparations for the 2023/2024 farming season.

Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka

The report was presented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka.

“In terms of the summer financing schemes, Government will contribute US$642,372 million while the Bankers Association indicates that $68 billion in local currency and USD 160 million has been committed for the 2023/24 season,” said Dr Muswere.

“Regarding the irrigation update, dams are 82 percent full across the country. Some 70 316 hectares have been committed for irrigated maize production, with a potential of 400 000 to 500 000 metric tonnes production.”

The Minister said under the National Enhanced Agriculture Production Programme (NEAPS), a target of 92 000 hectares has been set while about 40,8 percent of available maize seed is of early to ultra-early maturity. 

He said the acceleration of the Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme is progressing well including the distribution of inputs across the country.

“Seed sales for Tobacco preparations for the 2023/24 season are seven percent above last year’s figures indicating an increased interest in tobacco production. Forty contractors have registered for tobacco production with the total indicative area contracted at 147 835 hectares,” said Dr Muswere.

He said as of September 24, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) stocks for maize stood at 215 000 metric tonnes, traditional grains at 48 026 metric tonnes and 137 414 metric tonnes of wheat. Wheat stocks will last for a period of six months at a monthly drawdown rate of 21 000 metric tonnes.

Dr Muswere said with a projected El Nino season ahead, the private sector has been allowed to import additional maize and soya beans while the importation of mealie meal by households will continue duty-free.

“Pertaining to winter wheat, a record 90 192 hectares have been planted with an estimated volume of 420 000 metric tonnes expected to be harvested. About 70 percent has been grown by A2 (57 percent) and A1 farmers (13 percent), attesting to the success of the land reform programme. Meanwhile, wheat harvesting has commenced with some 900 hectares having been harvested to date,” he said.

Dr Muswere said under the Presidential Rural Development Programme, 35 000 village business Units, 9 600 school business Units, 4 800 youth business units, and 460 Irrigation schemes business units will be established throughout the country.

When fully operational, the programme will boost yields and improve the rural livelihoods of communities. 

Zimbabwe is an Agrarian economy with most of the country’s sectors being directly and indirectly linked to the agricultural sub-sector. Zimbabwe envisages to be an upper middle-income economy by 2030 and agricultural production is critical in the attainment of that vision.