Crops in dire straits

Zim to miss 4,5% economic growth projection

Zimbabwe Independent

26 January 2018


ZIMBABWE is likely to miss its ambitious economic growth target of 4,5%, a forecast mainly based on projections of a strong agricultural season, after farmer unions this week revealed that the dry spell that has hit the country has affected summer crops, a situation they described as dire.

In his 2018 budget presentation last year, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the economy would grow by 4,5% in 2018 on the back of scaled-up agricultural financing, economic reforms and policy interventions.

In interviews on Wednesday, the Agricultural Recovery and Compensation manager at the Commercial farmers' Union, Ben Gilpin, and Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers' Union (ZCFU) president Wonder Chabikwa said most summer crops around the country are in a terrible state due to low rainfall the country is experiencing.

The situation is likely to threaten government's ambitious command agriculture programme despite government still contending that it will surpass a revised growth rate of 0,9% announced by the World Bank recently.

"Most parts of the country are in a dire situation and this is because we have been receiving patchy rainfalls. Even those with irrigation they are struggling to get around because of the hot weather. Worse still, water is depleting in some dams and this might also affect the winter crops," Gilpin said.

"The weather forecast is not showing any immediate relief. Areas that are usually less affected, for example Marondera, are also showing signs of constraints. The situation is generally critical everywhere. We just hope that government embarks on an early crop assessment now rather than later. The good thing, though, is that the country is still well-stocked from grains from last year but we are still going to face some hardships."

Chabikwa described the crop situation as "very bad" urging government to immediately intervene so as to rescue crops that can still be rescued.

"It is very bad, very bad. The country is divided into agro-ecological regions that are region 1, 2A, 2B, 3, 4 and 5. This year the severity is across all regions even in areas where we expect the best crop results. Region 1 areas such as Chipinge and Nyanga, among others, is not as bad while Region 2A areas like Rusape, Macheke and Marondera they are not as good as expected," Chabikwa said.

"Region 2B that is areas like Banket and Norton among others we have not yet recorded a write-off but the situation is bad.

In areas like Chegutu and areas under Midlands Province among others in Region 3 we are starting to talk of a write-off. The same is with Regions 4 and 5. Normally what the farmers do is that after the maize crops they then grow soya beans and some have not managed to do because of the bad state of the maize crop. Those that have managed the soya bean crop have been affected by a huge margin."

Chabikwa said dryland tobacco crop was badly affected by lack of rainfall and its leaves are looking like the size of a child's hand, while that on irrigation was looking good.

"Government should make frantic efforts right now to rescue crops. This is by resuscitating irrigation schemes especially on crops that are near dams. We have underground water reserves, whose levels are still high, for example Umguza district, it has lots of underground water that never dries up," he said.