ZIMBABWE’s maize production is set to decline in the 2013/2014 farming season to below 799 000 tonnes produced during the previous season due to a myriad of problems, among them late planting by farmers due to shortages of inputs and inadequate funding for the sector, the Commercial Farmers Union warned this week.
Most farmers planted late into the season as they awaited rains and some are still battling to procure fertilisers as local manufacturers fail to meet demand.
CFU president Charles Taffs said: “There was a lot of late planting and this usually results in lower yields. If you plant after December 15, indications are that there will be lower yields.”
Last season Zimbabwe recorded a 17% drop in maize production to 799 000 tonnes from 900 000 tonnes. The national annual maize requirement for the country is 1,2 million tonnes.
The CFU is still compiling a comprehensive crop assessment for the 2013/2014 season.
Taffs said agricultural production in the country could significantly improve if agricultural financing is addressed.
“The country has a huge funding problem which it must address,” he said adding, “It is not government’s job to fund agriculture. It should be funded through the banking system.”
Government is still to conclude land tenure issues after embarking on the fast-track land redistribution programme in 2000.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made conceded input shortages and funding problems besetting the sector could affect maize production, but said it was too early to predict the total yield.
“We don’t have enough at the moment and we are battling to get stocks in through importing, especially top dressing,” Made said. “We are concerned by the motives of those who are releasing crop assessments now. How can one do a comprehensive assessment when we are still telling our farmers to plant?”
Made also said the ministry was still monitoring the weather patterns as the country has in the past experienced mid-season drought. He said government would give its realistic assessment after that period.
The World Food Programme last year predicted the country was likely to register a food deficit of nearly 500 000 tonnes in 2014. It also projected at least 2,2 million people would need food assistance this year.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in his budget statement projected that agriculture would grow by 9% anchored on growth in maize production (62,8%), cotton (27,8%), soya beans (26,7%) and groundnuts (56,8%).