HomePoliticsOnly 32% of land ready for planting

Only 32% of land ready for planting

Augustine Mukaro

A RECORD low hectarage is expected to be put under crop in the 2004/5 season as only 32% of land normally planted has been prepared for planting.

, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Farming experts who carried out a survey recently said less than 200 000 hectares of land had been prepared for planting in the commercial sector while an estimated 220 000 hectares were ready in communal and newly-resettled areas.

Under normal circumstances, crop production should take up 1,3 million hectares.

The survey by agricultural experts said the fall in land planted would be exacerbated by the high degree of uncertainty prevailing in the sector.

It said evictions of both commercial and newly-resettled farmers would result in a substantial decline in the planting of major crops such as maize and tobacco in the coming season.

Hectarage in the commercial farming sector has been in decline since the government embarked on the arbitrary land reform programme in 2000.

Planted land in newly-resettled areas would also decline as government evicts A1 settlers to make room for A2 farmers throughout the country.

The survey said the 2004/5 season could be the worst in Zimbabwe’s agricultural history, as all factors are unfavourable to production.

“Tractors available for tillage have slumped from over 30 000 to below 10 000 including those owned by farmers, firms and quasi-government organisations like the District Development Fund (DDF) and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda),” the survey said.

If all the tractors were operational, they could till up to 400 000 hectares but over half of them have broken down and some have been overused.

The government’s DDF, which normally offers tillage to communal farmers, will not get close to last year’s 100 000 hectares due to lack of spare parts for most of its tractors.

Tobacco Growers Trust (TGT) past president Thomas Nherera said draught power remains the major stumbling block forcing farmers to reduce the area under crop.

“So far TGT has brought 242 tractors into the country and their capacity is a maximum of 10 000 hectares,” he said.

“The ideal situation would be about 100 000 tractors. All farmers would be assured of access to a tractor to till land. Tobacco farmers alone need to plant up to 75 000 hectares.”

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) estimates that about 500 of its members remain on the land either fully or partially operational out of some 4 500 before the land seizures began.

“Reductions in commercial plantings since the beginning of the land reform programme in 2000 are: flue cured tobacco by 72%; maize 72%, cotton 95%, and soyabeans 70% including hectarage planted by A2 farmers,” the CFU August report said.

“The total area of crops grown has dropped from normal levels of around 530 000 hectares to approximately 220 000 by last season. A further considerable plunge in cropping activities is inevitable this year.”

With less than a month to go before the first rains are expected, the availability of fertiliser and seed is still dogged by uncertainty.

Local manufacturers have for the past three seasons failed to meet demand as foreign currency shortages have hampered imports of vital chemicals.

Inputs expected in the market are likely to be inadequate for even half the traditional hectarage put under crop.

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