Rains scupper agric projection

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Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa

GOVERNMENT’S projected growth of 12% in agriculture this year is likely to be missed as major crops such as maize and tobacco are being affected by heavy rains and flash floods which have hit the country, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

Hazel Ndebele

Other than the heavy rains, a fertiliser shortage and an outbreak of pests are also expected to contribute to lower yields.

Presenting his 2017 budget statement in December, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the economy is expected to grow by 1,7% buoyed by agriculture and mining.

The growth in agriculture, Chinamasa said, is to be driven by higher output from maize, cotton and tobacco as well as milk production.

Although the damage is yet to be quantified, farmers’ organisations told the Independent that crop output had been negatively affected.

Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) public relations manager Isheunesu Moyo said the tobacco crop had been affected by floods in some parts of the country, adding her organisation will do an assessment to determine the impact of leaching.

Leaching refers to the loss of water-soluble plant nutrients from the soil, due to rain and irrigation.

Tobacco is a major export, which as of last month, according to TIMB figures, had generated US$933,6 million after 164,5 million kilogrammes of tobacco were exported.

Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) agriculture recovery and compensation unit manager Ben Gilpin said crops were being affected by the heavy rains as well as other factors.

“Currently the country is experiencing a shortage of ammonium nitrate fertiliser which, given the heavy rains, can result in poor crop yields. More so this season, we are for the first time experiencing a new crop pest called green funnel worm or fall army worm (spedoptera frugiperda). We have had widespread reports of maize crops being affected,” Gilpin said.

“Heavy rains and flooding usually result in leaching of nutrients which affects crops and results in low yields. Moreover, continuous rainfall results in waterlogging which causes poor aeration that can lead to death of plant cells and roots.”

The heavy rains, the CFU said, were also affecting agronomic practices such as weeding, application of herbicides and top dressing fertilisers due to water logging.

A number of low lying areas in the country have been seriously affected by flooding which has swept away livestock and destroyed crops.

Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union president Stan Goredema said this year’s agricultural output will also be affected by late planting.

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