Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE which requires 1,5 million tonnes of grain annually, has this year harvested about 2,6 million and this is attributed to Command Agriculture programme and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
Briefing stakeholders before touring Jotsholo Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) Estate in Matabeleland North province yesterday,Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country had for many years not been able to harvest enough to meet its food requirements.
Cde Mnangagwa said the country which realised a surplus this year, will soon export some of the grain.
“For many years we have been importing food and as such the bulk of the money the country was generating was being gobbled by food imports. Now that is a thing of the past, just because we (Government) set down and said what can we do to produce food for this country?
“We then agreed that we need 400 000 hectares countrywide under Command Agriculture and if each hectare gives five tonnes we will have two million tonnes,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa said the country only needs between 1.5 million tonnes and 1.6 million tonnes annually.
“So this time we are already over 2.6 million tonnes. GMB (Grain Marketing Board ) is now already over 1.2 million tonnes but that is only 40 percent of the produce, which goes to GMB, the other 60 percent is still outside (with farmers) and that gives us a total of 2.6 million for the first time after many years,” he said.
The Vice President said when Command Agriculture was introduced two years ago, Jotsholo ARDA Estate started utilising 200 ha under cropping but the hectarage has been increased to 400 ha.
He said the Government’s vision under Command farming programme was taking shape in Jotsholo with nearly 50 ha under irrigation guided by the 10-Point Plan launched by President Mugabe in 2015.
“I was given the mandate to spearhead the Command Agriculture Programme to ensure the country produces adequate food. It is pleasing to note that the ARDA leadership has achieved tremendous progress in boosting production at ARDA estates across the country. I believe that another two years from now, the volumes of production will be three times or four times what it was two years ago because each season we increase the number of hectares under crop production,” said Mnangagwa.
Crops such as maize, potatoes, soya bean and wheat are grown at Jotsholo estate, which at the moment has 85 ha under seed maize with the harvesting expected in December. VP Mnangagwa said as a result of the bumper harvest in the 2016/17 cropping season the GMB depots countrywide have run out of storage facilities prompting the marketing board to come up with makeshift storage facilities.
He said as a result of the food surplus, the Government and the private sector had stopped importing maize. Over the years, Zimbabwe has been importing maize from countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Brazil and Mexico.
Earlier during a stakeholder briefing, ARDA board chairman Mr Burzil Nyabadza said the Command Agriculture programme had boosted food production leading to the surplus that the country intends to export.
“We are now looking at 24 crops, which we are saying these crops must now graduate us to be self-sufficient and bring in foreign currency. Out of the 24 crops, nine are import-substitution, the balance of 15 are dedicated export crops to enhance our export receipts at the Reserve Bank,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa, who was accompanied by senior Government officials, ARDA executives and Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Cain Mathema, concluded his tour by visiting Mary Ellen Farm, which was also under Command Agriculture programme in the province.