Pleasant surprise for maize farmers

The Government’s awarding of a 30 percent foreign currency incentive for maize deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has come as a pleasant surprise to farmers with their unions calling for a replication of the decision for other crops. Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube on Saturday announced that the United States dollar incentive was meant to encourage early delivery of maize and other grains to the GMB for the 2021/22 marketing season.

The outstanding 70 percent will be paid in Zimbabwean dollars, while the US dollar component will be calculated at the prevailing willing buyer willing seller rate published by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on the date of delivery. Payments will be backdated to the date of the first delivery this to GMB. Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president, Dr Shadreck Makombe described the announcement of the 30 percent incentive as a bolt from the blue that came unexpectedly saying farmers felt encouraged by the path the Government had taken.

“It is something in the right direction and lowers the Government’s importation bill as well and puts money into farmers’ pockets. Although farmers naturally would want a larger US dollar portion, every journey starts with the first step. Good times are beckoning in the future,” he added. Dr Makombe said the principle of splitting payments between US and Zimbabwean dollars was okay and appreciated by farmers as a sign of recognition by the Government for their toil adding that it would go a long way in motivating farmers to treat farming as a business.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president, Mr Andrew Pascoe concurred with Dr Makombe saying the move by Government was positive and would enhance viability in grain production. “We await the implementation modalities, as we are not yet sure whether the US dollar payment will be in cash or nostro, however, it is the wish of farmers that this initiative be extended to cover other commodities this marketing season. “If this initiative had been announced prior to planting as a pre-planting incentive, farmers would have put more hectarage under grain crops to ensure food and nutrition security for the nation,” said Mr Pascoe.

An economist with the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU), Mrs Nyasha Taderera chipped in saying farmers appreciated the efforts by the Government in addressing grain producers’ concerns. Having a US dollar component as part of their payment will greatly assist in securing inputs and services that are difficult to acquire in Zimbabwe dollars, she further explained. “Farmers would even be happier if the producer price of $75 000 for a tonne of maize was to be reviewed upwards to counteract the negative effects of inflation since the day of producer price review,” observed Mrs Taderera.

Meanwhile, the Agricultural Marketing Authority’s (AMA) weekly commodity market Bulletin Number 18 of 2022 issued on May 3, 2022 revealed that a tonne of white maize was trading for US$287, 36 per tonne on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) international commodity exchange market. This compares to US$271 per tonne that local farmers would have realised on the 10th of May if all their $75 000 per tonne of maize was converted to US dollars at the willing buyer willing seller rate of $277,03.

Food security assured as Zim records surplus

ZIMBABWE will have a surplus of 107 328 tonnes of cereals despite the decline in production during the 2021/22 summer cropping season, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development has said. According to the Ministry ‘s Second Crop and Livestock Assessment report, the country is expected to harvest an estimated 1 557 914 tonnes of maize and 194 100 tonnes of traditional grains for the 2021/22 summer cropping season. Although there has been a decrease in cereal production from last year’s harvest, when taking into consideration the amount of maize and traditional grains in the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR), Zimbabwe will still have a surplus, the Ministry said.

“The total cereal production is 1 752 014 tonnes against a national requirement of 2 267 599 tonnes (1 817 599 tonnes for human consumption and 350 000 tonnes for livestock). As at April 17, the country had 447 294 tonnes of maize and 75 619 tonnes of traditional grains in the SGR. “There is a surplus of 107 328 Mt after considering Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR),” read the report. Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said the grain in the SGR could be used to mitigate against the deficit. “Furthermore, several months ago we opened for the imports of maize for millers who have access to free funds to also import their deficit requirements.

We assure the nation that the food situation is our top priority and there will certainly not be any shortages,” he said. Deputy Minister Haritatos attributed the decline in cereal production to erratic rainfall experienced during the 2021/22 cropping season. “Climate change has affected our country’s production of grain. “Our Ministry has been pushing hard on irrigation development with a target to ensure that we have 350,000 hectares under irrigation which will ensure that we are food and nutrition self-sufficient,” he said. Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr John Basera, also confirmed the surplus. “We have managed to secure for the nation enough grain stocks for human and livestock consumption on account of current 2021/22 production and yesteryear surplus.

The livestock sub-sector performed incredibly well as most of the KPIs are in the positive. “We all know we could have done much better given the teamwork, plans in place, the dedication and unity of purpose, but Covid-19, climate change and the geopolitical dynamics worked against our favour. But, be that as it may, it only make us more resolute in our determination to achieve food self-sufficiency, import substitution and inclusive agricultural transformation, ultimately,” he said. The Second Crop and Livestock Assessment report shows that maize production declined by 43 percent from the 2 717 171 tonnes produced in the 2020/2021 season while traditional grains production also declined by 44 percent from 347 968 tonnes last season to 194 100 tonnes this year.

“Sorghum production is expected to be 144 633 tonnes which is 41 percent lower than 244 063 tonnes obtained during 2020/2021 season. “Pearl millet production is expected to be at 44 143Mt which is 51 percent less than 90 683 tonnes obtained during 2020/2021. Finger millet production is expected to be at 5 320 tonnes which is a 60 percent decrease from 13 223 tonnes produced in the 2020/2021 season,” said the report. The 2021/2022 season started late in the second and third dekad of December 2021 in most parts of the country. Where it started early, (last week of October to mid- November 2021), it was a false start. Rainfall distribution was poor in both space and time across the country. There were incessant rains in January followed by a prolonged dry spell in the first week of February to end of March.

The false start of the season resulted in failed crop establishment forcing most farmers to replant several times. The late onset caused late plantings which were later affected by the prolonged dry spell at the reproductive stage causing write offs especially in the central and southern parts of the country. During April unusually heavy late rains were received which were expected to benefit the late planted crop, but the incessant rains caused excessive leaching of nitrogen and other crop nutrients.

Grain producer prices go up

Producer prices of maize, soya bean, traditional grains and sunflower have been raised for this year’s marketing season, with Cabinet determined that farmers will make a profit of at least 15 percent and so ensure that they are viable and will push productivity.

The prices and profits promote sustainable growth as Government takes significant steps to boost agricultural productivity and ensure food self-sufficiency by making it clear that farmers can make a living.

The new floor producer prices for maize and traditional grains have been set at $75 000 per tonne, up from $58 553 for maize and $70 263,90 for traditional grains set earlier.

For soya beans, the floor producer price has been set at $171 495, up from $125 530,17, while the price for sunflower is now $205 794,52 a tonne, up from $150 686,20.

Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, said Cabinet approved the producer prices after a presentation from Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka.

“Cabinet noted that in order to maintain farmer viability and profitability, there is need to review the prices for maize, traditional grains, soyabean and sunflower so that they are in sync with existing economic realities. 

“A good price that promotes sustainable growth of a particular value chain is that which allows the farmer to realise at least a 15 percent profit margin.”

Explaining the reasons for reviewing the producer prices, Minister Masuka said Government had taken note of the change in economic fundamentals particularly in respect of increases in fertiliser prices due to geo-political developments which have seen global fertiliser prices rise.

Turning to the state of preparedness for the next production and summer cropping season, Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government was now putting preparations in place from this month, instead of August as has been case, to overcome all challenges. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, as well as geo-political conflicts, have disrupted global supply chains for grain and agricultural inputs, with the resultant price escalations highlighting the need to intensify local production,” she said.

Cabinet noted that the main objective of the next summer programme was to sustainably increase crop and livestock production through implementation of critical strategies such as ensuring that crop and livestock production conformed to appropriate agro-ecological regions, acceleration of the climate proofing Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme through training plus the inclusion of agro-chemicals and water retention enhancers in input packages, and timely provision of fertilisers, seed and tillage services.

This summer cropping programme will see the Zunde RaMambo/Isiphala SeNkosi programme extended to involve 190 chiefs, 500 headmen and 36 000 village heads.

There will also be a consistent supply of electricity, water and fuel to farmers. 

Critically, the Presidential Inputs Programme will target 3 million farmers, up from last season’s 2,7 million farmers.

Other issues discussed were cropping targets and financing mechanisms that have been put in place by the Government.

The Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) had opened a special window to enhance production of potatoes and sunflower seeds.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the next National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme would now fund traditional grains through CBZ Bank and AFC, as well as cover other crops such as maize, soyabeans and sunflower.

Falcon Air, which is owned by the District Development Fund, will be capacitated with a view to mitigate the threat posed by dry spells to conduct cloud seeding at appropriate times.

Responding to questions, Minister Masuka explained several funding mechanisms for projects such as tillage and irrigation, adding that the Government will play a leading role with the provision of policy framework.

“Agriculture funding is a multi-stakeholder process. Government takes the lead by providing the policy framework,” he said.

 

Farmers welcome grains new producer prices

Farmers have welcomed the new producer prices announced by the Government with concerns over the prices of inputs. The Government on Tuesday announced new producer prices for various crops for the 2022 farming season reflective of the current economic situation. Cabinet approved the proposal by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to review the producer prices for maize, soya bean, traditional grains and sunflower.

The new floor producer prices for maize and traditional grains have been set at $75 000 per tonne, up from $58 553 for maize and $70 263,90 for traditional grains set earlier. For soya beans, the floor producer price has been set at $171 495, up from $125 530,17, while the price for sunflower is now $205 794,52 a tonne, up from $150 686,20. The farmers said the producer prices were reasonable, but will be eroded if the prices of inputs such as seed, fertilisers and chemicals continued to rise. Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya applauded the Government for increasing producer prices and said the real issue was on addressing the stability of prices of inputs.

“Producer prices should be reviewed from time to time if possible on a weekly basis so that farmers do not lose out. “Suppliers want to be paid in United States dollars while farmers are being paid in zim dollars. “A bag of ammonium nitrate costs about US$73 but farmers are being paid in Zimbabwean dollars so we want to have all that addressed for the producer prices to be viable otherwise this will present some challenges. “Most farmers have not started delivering their maize to GMB because most farmers have not finished harvesting and most probably harvesting will finish in May,” he said.

Farmer Mr George Seremwe said farmers will be motivated to produce more by the new producer prices. “It’s a positive development which will make it more viable for the farmer to produce more and more. “We are also noticing that a lot of farmers are hesitant to grow wheat because of the producer prices and electricity is expensive so it is kind of worrying. “Most farmers have not started delivering to GMB because the season started very late and those who planted earlier cannot harvest because of continuous rains,” he said.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe said this was a very welcome development but however increasing prices have become very worrisome to the farmers. “As farmers we appreciate and acknowledge this development because by increasing these prices it shows that the Government is alive and hears our concerns as farmers. “However we would want the Government to continue doing this because already suppliers have increased prices for inputs and to make matters worse these prices are in United States dollars and at black market rate which has more than doubled the official Zimbabwean dollar rate.

“As farmers we are caught between hard ground and rock but we acknowledge and appreciate this development.” Cabinet noted that the main objective of the next summer programme was to sustainably increase crop and livestock production through implementation of critical strategies such as ensuring that crop and livestock production conformed to appropriate agro-ecological regions, acceleration of the climate proofing Pfumvudza programme through training plus the inclusion of agro chemicals and water retention enhancers in input packages, and timely provision of fertilisers, seed and tillage services.

Pfumvudza crops outwit dry spell

Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme was widely embraced in Mashonaland central province with 356 310 farmers participating the year, exceeding the provincial target of 300 000. The Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme has saved Mashonaland Central from the mid-season dry spell experienced this year with farmers who practiced the concept faring well compared to others.

Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme was widely embraced in the province with 356 310 farmers participating the year, exceeding the provincial target of 300 000. The province experienced a false start to the rainy season with the first rains being received in November 2021 followed by a dry spell until January this year. Farmers planted in January following generous rains, but the following month the province was hit by another dry spell resulting in wilting of crops.

Four districts, Mazowe, Bindura, Guruve and Shamva received good rains and the crops are in a good state. However, lower Guruve, Muzarabani Mbire among other places had poor distribution of rainfall but farmers who practice Pfumvudza/Intwasa are better off. Speaking at a field day at his homestead at Karambwe village in Guruve host farmer Mr Cryson Karambwe said instead of doing the expected five plots, he went as far as 13. “When I was relying on cattle draught power I had low yields but when I started the Pfumvudza/Intwasa concept I am experiencing an increased yield each year,” he said. “I now realised that one does not only need cows to become a good farmer. Using the hoe, you can have a yield that surpasses those with draught power. “Mulching is the critical part of the whole concept. This is why others are failing. Others are too lazy to do the holing process.”

His wife Rebecca Maodzeka said the holing process is not painful if started earlier around April or June while the ground is wet and soft. “We did the holing process slowly day by day. Sometimes we would do two lines and rest. We decided to do more Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots because we wanted a high yield to cater for our big family,” she said. “I encourage couples to work together in doing this concept, it becomes easier.” Mrs Martha Nhemachena who came to the field said she was inspired to add more Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots next farming season.

“I have one Pfumvudza/Intwasa plot at my homestead and the crop did well compared to other portions. Field days are a platform to learn and copy good things, next season I will have more plots to ensure food security,” she said. Mr Albert Jokonya said his crops from his six Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots are good despite the false start to the rainy season. Mr Jokonya said although he started holing late in September, this did not affect him because of the late start to the rainy season. “Challenges like poor germination and leaching of fertiliser did not affect his crops in a big way because the effects are minimized due to holing and mulching,” he said. “I had more plots because of the positive results of this program. Despite low rainfall the water is contained in the holes which is helpful in the wake of poor rainfall patterns.”

Permanent Secretary, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr John Bhasera said the Government is targeting to support 3 million households this year in the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme. He said the country has a surplus of 500 000 tonnes in Grain Marketing Board (GMB) silos due to the success of the program last year. Dr Bhasera who was speaking at the field day at Karambwe said Pfumvudza/Intwasa accounted for 1, 660 000 tonnes of the 2, 7 million maize production. He said the country produced 400 000 traditional grains last year.

He advised farmers to take advantage of Government programmes aimed at uplifting people’s standard as the country journeys towards vision 2030. Dr Bhasera said President Mnangagwa’s vision to have no household or place left behind. “The Government has done its part in availing inputs on time free of charge. The farmer is expected to do the holing process in time and ensure adequate mulching to maintain moisture,” he said. “Pfumvudza/Intwasa is a measure to adapt to effects of climate change.

Mid-season dry spells are mitigated by mulching don’t let the mulch destroyed by veld fires. “Crop rotation is key in breaking the cycle of crop diseases and increasing yield. Through the Pfumvudza/Intwasa program Zimbabwe became food sufficient for the first time.” The provincial agronomist Mr Izah Jaide said emphasis on Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme is on four concepts which are holing, crop rotation, mulching and timeliness. “The performance of two plots, one with mulch and the other without, is different. The crop size, stand, height and plant population is good in a plot with mulching compared to one without,” he said.

“Mulch is a key concept which needs to be followed, we urge farmers to gather mulch now before they are destroyed by fire. Overly farmers who practiced Pfumvudza/Intwasa this year are better off than those who don’t.”