Zim faces 1,1 million tonnes grain deficit

ZIMBABWE faces yet another grain deficit of more than 1,1 million tonnes this year despite receiving above average rainfall in the 2005/06 season.

Preliminary assessments by the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) indicate that Zimbabwe is likely to harvest about

700 000 tonnes of maize this season against an annual consumption of 1,8 million tonnes.

A further 500 000 tonnes would be required for strategic grain reserves.

The projected production means Zimbabwe would have to import about 1,6 million tonnes of maize including the strategic grain reserves to bridge the two seasons.

“It is still expected that cereal harvests will exceed last year’s drought-affected harvest, estimated at about 700 000 tonnes,” Fewsnet’s latest report released on February 20 says.

Fewsnet said the widespread shortage and high cost of farming inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, fuel and draught power severely limited the capacity of both smallholders and commercial farmers to increase area planted.
 
“Reports at the start of the season indicated that agricultural preparedness in the country was very poor and this has led to failure to take full advantage of the good rainfall with farmers forced to plant late, and to reduce planted areas as a result of late acquisition or non-availability of necessary inputs, dampening expectations for improved harvests,” it said.  The report said outbreaks of army worm in some provinces had resulted in the loss of some 1 000 hectares of crop as a result of a shortage of spraying chemicals.

“Leeching of soils, waterlogging and a proliferation of weeds as a result of excessive rains are likely to negatively affect final yields as well,” the report says. Agricultural expert and former MDC spokesman Renson Gasela projected a maize yield of around 600 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 1,2 million tonnes.

“We know that there was only 30 000 tonnes of maize seed available for this season,” Gasela said.

“If all this seed had been planted, it would have covered 1 200 000 hectares. This would produce at best about 800 000 tonnes of maize, but the seed was too expensive for many farmers, so not all was bought,” he said. — Staff Writer.