January rains wreak havoc on crop yields

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Tobacco yields for the 2012-13 marketing season are expected to slump by 40% owing to serious damage to the crop by heavy rains in January, the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) said this week.

Report by Gamma Mudarikiri

ZCFU president  Wonder Chabikwa  told  businessdigest the  heavy rains received  in the  country  in  January  resulted in  heavy leaching  which would  compromise  the quality  and   quantity   of  the  crop this year.

“There was massive leaching, especially  in sandy  soils,  due to the  heavy  rains  received  in January  and  we are estimating   that  the  tobacco  output will  decline by  at least  40%,” said Chabikwa.

However, the Tobacco Industries and Marketing Board (TIMB) had projected this year’s crop yield  to be around 170 million kilogrammes from 144 million kilogrammes last year.

Chabikwa  projected maize output would also slump to below the initial forecasts of less than 600 000 tonnes owing to the same heavy January rains.

This meant  the  country would  continue to  import  food, a development that would see the country’s  trade deficit, currently  at US$3,6 billion, widening.

Meanwhile, national cattle herd in 2012  dwindled   to  5 million  owing  to the  drought  in  the  country especially in Matebeland  and  other  regions  of  the  country.

Matebeland South provincial livestock specialist Simingaliphi  Ngwabi told  businessdigest  that last year the  national herd  slumped   to 5 million,  from  5,2 million the  previous  year, adding the  decline  was due to the  persistent   drought  in the region.

“The  decline   in  the number  of  cattle is because  of  the  persistent drought and  is thus  a major setback towards  rebuilding  the national cattle  herd in Zimbabwe,” said Ngwabi.

The decline in the national herd has consequently reduced export operations in the sector and the country continues to be dependent on beef imports from countries like Botswana.

Agriculture in the country remains in the doldrums amid accusations the government has done too little to revive the sector.
This year the economy is expected to grow only by 5% largely due to the poor performance of the sector.

The 2012 agricultural season was also characterised by lower than expected maize and tobacco output, resulting in depressed production in the food-based manufacturing and the retail sector.

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