Tendai Mugabe recently in Mashonaland Central
THE Government is targeting to export maize grown under Command Agriculture once the country has enough food and has fully stocked its strategic reserves to boost the country’s economy.
This is benchmarked on the success of Command Agriculture under which several farmers surpassed the targeted yield per hectare two fold in the first year of its implementation.
Government had set a target of at least five tonnes per hectare, but statistics gathered by our Harare Bureau from farmers in Mashonaland Central last week, showed that most of them surpassed the target by a huge margin, setting the tone for a discussion on exports.
Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Mr Justin Mupamhanga told our Harare Bureau that the primary objective of Command Agriculture was to ensure self food sustenance after which exports would follow to earn the country the much needed foreign currency.
“The primary thing is to ensure that our country has sufficient food,” he said. “When we have reached the levels that we are satisfied that we can feed ourselves sustainably and have any extra, we can export that extra because exports are the foreign currency earners,” he said.
“When we have more than what we require, then we can export so that our economy grows. What is important is to ensure that we have sufficient to eat for the year and also we have a strategic reserve. It is logical that we export any extra.”
According to Government projections, Mr Mupamhanga said they were expecting a yield of two million tonnes annually over a three-year period.
Of the two million tonnes, he said, 1,5 million was for consumption, while 500 000 was for strategic reserves.
This effectively means in three years from now, the country would have 1,5 million tonnes in its reserves and any surplus would be considered for export.
On provision of inputs for the next cropping season, Mr Mupamhanga said: “All efforts are being made to ensure that farmers are not inconvenienced. I know that the funder of this programme is developing a package to ensure that farmers get a whole package for the farming season.
“I cannot give you a specific date, but what I know is that there is something they are already working on.”
Several farms visited by our Harare Bureau last week had surpassed the five tonnes per hectare yield set by Government.
At Kwayedza Farm owned by Mrs Tsitsi Gezi, wife to the late national hero Cde Border Gezi, they got an average of 10 tonnes per hectare.
Mrs Gezi said they got support for 150 hectares under Command Agriculture.
“We benefited a lot under the Command Agriculture,” she said. “We received seed, fertilisers, herbicides and chemicals enough for the 150 hectares that we have utilised.
“Good weed management and good fertiliser application also helped us to surpass the set targets. We are still harvesting, but we are getting an average of 10 to 11 tonnes per hectare.
“We have already started to build our national strategic reserve and if we do the same in the next two to three years, we may soon start exporting.”
She said it was important for Government to ensure that farmers received all the inputs on time.
Another farmer from Mashonaland Central, Mr Daniel Chinyemba said: “In one year we have surpassed the set target. Here we are getting an average yield of nine to 10 tonnes per hectare. I think if we produce enough grain, we can take care of all other problems that we face as a country. Even our industry will have enough raw materials.”
As farmers, Mr Chinyemba said, their irrigation equipment was being vandalised every year and it was important for Government to protect them through deterrent measures such as enactment of a law that heavily penalises thieves of agricultural equipment.
During the last Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting, President Mugabe said Command Agriculture would be the Zanu-PF trump card for the 2018 harmonised elections because of its success and efforts put in by officials.