16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Mat South Farmers Uncertain Over Cropping Season

Farmers in Matabeleland South are uncertain over prospects for the 2012-2013 cropping season, with a number of them yet to put seed into the ground owing to erratic rains experienced since last year.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Matabeleland South provincial manager, Fidelis Mhlolo, this week said the season was not promising.

"The cropping season is not promising at all with a number of farmers yet to commence planting. The rains have not been reliable since their onset," Mhlolo said.

He said some crops which had germinated in Gwanda district got scot-ched by the sun, dashing hope of a meaningful harvest this year.

"This is likely to be our worst year. Can you imagine some people have not even attempted to plant anything by now," said Mhlolo.

He added: "Heaps of manure that farmers had prepared for their crops can still be seen as you drive along the Bulawayo-Gwanda Road. (This is) evidence nothing was put into the ground."

Mhlolo said Agritex officials in the province were now encouraging them to plant short season varieties and small grains in order to avert hunger.

The Matabeleland South ZFU provincial manager said the livestock situation had also not improved, with cattle continuing to die even to date.

"Farmers are still buying stock feed in a bid to save their livestock as pastures have not improved. Can you imagine the strain of feeding your family and your livestock from your pocket," Mhlolo said.

A total of 9 272 cattle deaths had been recorded in the province by December 20, 2012 due to the effects of drought.

The most affected is Mangwe District with 5 476 deaths followed by Matobo with 1 232 deaths and Beitbridge with 1 015 deaths. The least affected is Umzingwane with only 23 cattle reported dead.

However, the situation in Matabeleland North is reportedly better, with the province having received good rains in December.

"By and large the crops in Matabeleland North, especially in districts such as Lupane and Tsholotsho are in a good condition. We haven't received any complaints from farmers," said Ester Mwanza, Matabel-eland North ZFU provincial manager.

"The situation is stable; and if the rains continue, we are expecting a bumper harvest," she added.

The past cropping season was a total failure countrywide, a situation that even forced Finance Minister Tendai Biti to revise economic growth forecasts downwards.

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