Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
The country has over six months’ supply of maize held under the Strategic Grain Reserve while the area of all major crops planted this season has doubled due to the good rains and the support given to farmers under the Command Agriculture scheme.
Appearing before the Senate Thematic Committee on Peace and Security Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said prospects for a bumper harvest in the 2016-2017 cropping seasons were high.
“As of this morning our SGR stands at about 250 000 metric tonnes. This provides cover for about six months at a draw down rate of 41 189 metric tonnes per month. I am talking of the Government figures, the private sector most probably have an equal amount,” Dr Made said.
He said the total area of maize planted as of January 27 was 1 243 624 ha as compared to 773 968 ha during the 2015-2016 season.
For sorghum, he said 188 430 hectares had been planted compared to 86 409 the previous season while farmers have planted 124 088 hectares of pearl millet, an increase from 56 201hectares planted last season.
Finger millet was grown on 37 511 ha, an increase from the 24 381ha recorded in the 2015-2016 season.
Tobacco and cotton were planted on 107 247 ha and 155 056 ha respectively as compared to 95 160 ha and 155 056 ha from last summer’s cropping season.
Dr Made said only soya beans had a decrease in total area planted from 29 730 ha to 17 032 ha, which he attributed to a shortage of fertilisers and other inputs.
He said 62 percent of land that had been contracted under Command Agriculture had been planted as at February 9.
“As of 9 February 191 124 ha or 77 percent of the contracted land was prepared for purposes of planting and of that 153 000 or 62 percent of that was planted in all provinces,” Dr Made said.
He said that Government was already mobilising funds to purchase grain from farmers adding that the producer price would remain at $390 per tonne.
“To date Treasury has made a provisional budget of $62 million to be channelled towards grain purchase and more resources are being mobilised. The Agricultural Marketing Authority is making arrangements as directed by Treasury and $80 million is targeted for that,” Dr Made said.
He said GMB had a capacity to store four million tonnes of grains at its depots and that $7 million was required to carry out maintenance works at the cylindrical concrete silos countrywide.
Turning to winter wheat, Dr Made said Government was targeting to plant 70 000 ha with $140 million required for the purpose.
He said out of the 8 400 tonnes of seed that was required for the crop 3 200 was already available while 35 000 tonnes of Compound have also been secured.
“We already have funding for 50 000 ha of the wheat from Sakunda Holdings, 5 000 ha is funded by National Foods as you know it is a major consumer of wheat, Northern Farming will fund 5 000 ha and Stay Well will also fund 5 00ha and the remaining 5 000 ha will be funded by other players,” Dr Made said.