1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: January Rains Wreak Havoc On Crop Yields

Tobacco yields for the 2012-13 marketing season are expected to slump by 40% owing to serious damage to the crop by heavy rains in January, the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) said this week.

ZCFU president Wonder Chabikwa told businessdigest the heavy rains received in the country in January resulted in heavy leaching which would compromise the quality and quantity of the crop this year.

"There was massive leaching, especially in sandy soils, due to the heavy rains received in January and we are estimating that the tobacco output will decline by at least 40%," said Chabikwa.

However, the Tobacco Industries and Marketing Board (TIMB) had projected this year's crop yield to be around 170 million kilogrammes from 144 million kilogrammes last year.

Chabikwa projected maize output would also slump to below the initial forecasts of less than 600 000 tonnes owing to the same heavy January rains.

This meant the country would continue to import food, a development that would see the country's trade deficit, currently at US$3,6 billion, widening.

Meanwhile, national cattle herd in 2012 dwindled to 5 million owing to the drought in the country especially in Matebeland and other regions of the country.

Matebeland South provincial livestock specialist Simingaliphi Ngwabi told businessdigest that last year the national herd slumped to 5 million, from 5,2 million the previous year, adding the decline was due to the persistent drought in the region.

"The decline in the number of cattle is because of the persistent drought and is thus a major setback towards rebuilding the national cattle herd in Zimbabwe," said Ngwabi.

The decline in the national herd has consequently reduced export operations in the sector and the country continues to be dependent on beef imports from countries like Botswana.

Agriculture in the country remains in the doldrums amid accusations the government has done too little to revive the sector.

This year the economy is expected to grow only by 5% largely due to the poor performance of the sector.

The 2012 agricultural season was also characterised by lower than expected maize and tobacco output, resulting in depressed production in the food-based manufacturing and the retail sector.

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