Bright spot for Zimbabwe as maize harvest expected to triple

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Amid the economic gloom of the coronavirus disaster and associated negative growth, one sector is shining brightly for Zimbabwe. 

The southern African country announced Tuesday that it expecting its maize harvest in 2020/21 summer crop season to be triple what the country produced in the drought hit 2019/20 agriculture season. 

In the 2019/20 season, Zimbabwe's maize harvest was just 900 000 tons, far short of national requirements of 1.8 million tons for human consumption yearly and 350 000 tons for stock feed. 

But thanks to good rains that characterised 2020/21 agricultural season, the Zimbabwe government expects to harvest 2.8 million tons of maize. 

Addressing a post-cabinet media briefing on Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said while government was still waiting for results of the first round of the Crop and Livestock Assessment, estimates were showing a bumper harvest. 

"For planning purposes an estimated national production of 2.5 to 2.8 million metric tons of maize and 360 000 metric tons of traditional grains has been based on the promising bumper harvest in 2021," Mutsvangwa said. 

From the expected harvest, deliveries to state-owned and national granary, Grain Marketing Board are expected to be 1.8 million  metric tons of maize and 200 000 metric tons of traditional grains. 

Saving on imported grain

The expected bumper harvest will save the country the much needed foreign currency it was using to import grain. 

Zimbabwe's maize import bill reached US$300 million in 2020 according to data from the National Statistics Agency. 

More than US$100 million each was also used to import crude soya bean and wheat respectively. 

But increased efforts to turn around the sector, which has underperformed since the controversial land reform programme back in year 2000, has seen increased production levels. 

The 2020 winter wheat crop was seen as a "major success" after farmers delivered 157 000 tons to the national granary. This is an increase from the 60 641 tons that were delivered in 2019. 

Expectations are that the soya bean crop will also beat recent records. 

Taking part in a social media discussion, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture John Bhasera said, farmers had planted a record 80 000ha of soya bean.  

Experts say this would produce at least 100 000 tons, going by 2020's average yield of 1.36 tons per hectare.

In 2020, Zimbabwe produced 47 088 tons of soya bean from the planted 34 700ha.

Peak production was 175 000 tons back in 2001.

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