Prosper Ndlovu and Pamela Shumba
GOVERNMENT has started distributing inputs for the 2017-18 summer cropping season and all provinces should be ready for planting by the first week of September to ensure a successful agricultural production.
Acting President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa said this yesterday in Maphisa, Matobo District, during a tour of Arda Antelope Estate — one of the most successful projects under the Command Agriculture Scheme.
He said sufficient funding has been secured for both the Command Agriculture Scheme as well as the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, which would cover 1,8 million households countrywide.
Government has already secured a record $487 million for the coming summer cropping season of which $154 million will be channelled towards the Presidential Input Support Scheme.
“This time we have been able to plan in advance in terms of inputs. For the 2017-18 summer cropping season we already have inputs distribution. For Mat South we have already identified how many hectares will be planted for Beitbridge, Gwanda, Filabusi and Plumtree for summer. We also have identified the amount of seed for these areas and distribution is happening because all the quantities are there,” said Cde Mnangagwa.
“But these inputs are going to be used end of September to October. We believe that by the first week of September every province and district will have the quantities already distributed. So, again as I said Government is continuously improving and I am so happy.”
The Command Agriculture Scheme was launched last year and President Mugabe tasked Cde Mnangagwa to oversee its implementation.
Acting President Mnangagwa said last season was a huge success and commended farmers across the country for their hard work saying beneficiaries of both the Command and Presidential Input Schemes produced excellent yields.
“The programme has been a huge success as evidenced by maize deliveries to GMB depots throughout the country. While deliveries are ongoing, some farmers are still harvesting to the extent that by 31 July 2017, a total of 89 386.82ha had been harvested out of 171 255ha planted. To date maize delivered to GMB depots from local farmers stands at 449 744 metric tonnes,” said the Acting President.
“Farmers have already started registering for maize production for the upcoming season. So far, a total of 112 233,2ha has been registered under maize production by 25 736 farmers, while 19 173ha under soya bean production has been registered by 2 246 farmers.”
He said this time around the Presidential Input Support Scheme would include soya bean production where each household would receive a 10kg of soya seed. Soya bean is a strategic crop for agro-processing industries. Since local production of the crop was poor, the country has been losing about $125 million each year through imports.
Silos at some GMB depots were already full, Cde Mnangagwa said, and excess maize was being transferred to depots in other provinces. GMB Banket silos, for instance, are now full and grain is being transferred to the GMB Murehwa depot in Mashonaland East.
The Acting President said winter wheat production was underway and progressing well with a total of 44 598ha having been planted. The hectarage is more than double what was planted during the previous season. Arda Antelope alone has planted 668ha and they are targeting harvesting 6,5 tonnes per hectare.
Cde Mnangagwa said he was impressed with progress at Arda Antelope and commended the quality of their crop. In the last season the estate planted 480ha under maize and produced 4 416 tonnes at an average yield of 9,2 tonnes per hectare. They also have a successful livestock project with 463 mixed weaners.
The Acting President said by the same time next year, Arda Antelope would have reached 1 000ha and that a similar target will be reached at Arda Ingwizi Estate in Mangwe District. He said the two estates alone would be able to produce 20 000 tonnes of grain for Matabeleland South.
Cde Mnangagwa commended farmers and institutions such as Arda for working hard to fulfil the President’s 10-point plant, which prioritises revitalisation of the agricultural sector and value addition.
Meanwhile, Cde Mnangagwa said Matopos Research Centre will now be part of the Command Agriculture programme. He toured the centre, which is run by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) where he was impressed by the quality of work being done by the researchers.
“I’m extremely impressed by the quality of work that is taking place here not only for Zimbabwe but for the entire region. I’m told that the benefits of research done here extend beyond Sadc. We have therefore decided to take on board the Matopos Research Centre on our Command Agriculture programme. We have devised ways of finding funding. It will not be a problem for us to fund the research centre,” said Acting President Mnangagwa.
He said the services rendered by the centre were not only for Zimbabwe but also for humanity and encouraged the team running the institution to continue doing the good work. “As Government we do support this research centre but I believe we could do more. I know if we do more the results will be wider.
“Zimbabwe has five agricultural regions and they’re able to produce varieties which suit all the five regions. There is no part of Zimbabwe that should go hungry as a result of drought or low rainfall,” said Cde Mnangagwa.
He was accompanied by ministers Cdes Kembo Mohadi, Abedinico Ncube and Clifford Sibanda, Matabeleland South MPs and senior Government officials.