Tawanda Mangoma, Harare Bureau
Sugarcane farmers in Chiredzi have set a target of producing more than 600 000 tonnes in the forthcoming season, while riding on an increased production level this year.
The call by Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe (THZ) and the Zimbabwe Sugar Association Experiment Station comes after production levels have been reduced to an average of 450 000 tonnes of sugar per season.
Zimbabwe last produced 600 000 tonnes of sugar in 1999, with the low yields attributed to droughts, leading to water rationing, high cost of production and the abandoning of some sugarcane plots.
Addressing farmers at a field day held under the theme: “Addressing Yield Decline through Good Management Practices”, in Mkwasine, THZ executive director-operations, Mr Adrien Mhere, said a collective effort was required from all stakeholders in the sugar industry to work towards a rise in yields.
He said Government addressed water shortages through the commissioning of the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, which has capacity to irrigate approximately 25 000 hectares. “We are unlocking new markets for our sugar,” said Mr Mhere. “This year we have a quota to supply 18 000 tonnes of sugar to America, while countries such as Botswana and Namibia get nearly half of their sugar from Zimbabwe.”
Mr Mhere said his company was already prepared to help all out grower farmers who needed inputs.
THZ executive director – out-grower farmers, Mr Ushe Chinhuru, said they had a target of having all individual farmers producing a minimum of 120 tonnes per hectare by 2020.
“We offer you free extension services so that you can improve your production capacity,” he said. “You contribute 34 percent of the sugarcane which we process as THZ and which is very significant.”
Mr Chinhuru said individual farmers produced 1 138 000 tonnes of sugarcane last season.
“We want that to grow,” he said. “We will continue to support you and banks are there also to help make our dream come true.”
Zimbabwe Sugar Association Experiment Station acting director Dr Audrey Mabveni said nothing woud stop out-grower farmers from harvesting more than 160 tonnes per hectare.
She said farmers should make sure they engaged their station for professional extension support.
“Some of you are producing 160 tonnes per hectare, why then are others producing 70 tonnes?” she said.
Dr Mabveni said farmers receiving information from the station were highly successful. “Everything must be applied according to findings at the laboratory, be it fertiliser, water, it must be the same,” she said.
Meanwhile, Tongaat Hulett, has pledged to rehabilitate all roads in Mkwasine Estate to rescue farmers facing serious challenges in transporting their produce to the mills.
Tongaat Hulett stopped operations in Mkwasine in 2006 following the allocation of all sugarcane plots in the area to A2 farmers during the land reform programme. Farmers have, since then, been failing to maintain roads.
Addressing farmers at a field day held recently, Tongaat Hulett executive director-operations Mr Mhere raised concern with the state of roads that have caused transport problems for farmers.
“Just as we were driving along the way, we saw huge bundles of sugarcane which I believe fell from moving tractors,” he said. “It’s just unfair for the farmer to look after his cane for 12 months and fail to deliver it fully.
“If I just start picking up all the sugarcane which you are dropping in Mkwasine, I will deliver a relatively high tonnage than the actual farmer.”
Mr Mhere said as the largest sugar producing company, they were moving in to assist farmers repair roads in Mkwasine.