TOTAL hectarage planted for major food crops has declined to 1,4 million hectares this year from 1,9 million hectares planted in 2012, a Cabinet minister has said. Addressing the Joint Command and Staff Course Number 26 at the Zimbabwe Staff College, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made attributed the decline to a myriad of challenges afflicting the sector.
He said some of the challenges included the high cost of production, funding constraints and limited accessibility of farm machinery.
"The area planted for major food crops, namely maize, sorghum and millet has temporarily declined to 1 498 455 hectares in 2013 from 1 930 082 hectares in 2012 due to inadequate financial support and late rains," he said.
He, however, said output for other crops including soyabeans and cotton was projected to increase due to improvement in financial support through agro bills and contract farming schemes.
"Contract farming has proved to be a formidable funding facility in cotton and tobacco production. Ways of extending contract farming to other crops and livestock are being worked out."
Dr Made said it was crucial for Government to ensure that farmers are paid timeously for crops delivered.
"Timely payment of farmers for crops and livestock products will stimulate farmers to re-invest into production," he said.
"Provision of subsidies on key enablers also contributes to lowering of cost of production of crops and livestock," he added.
He said it was also crucial for Government to invest in irrigation to boost agricultural productivity.
The agricultural sector is struggling to rebound, having registered a modest 4,6 percent growth in 2012.
It is, however, projected to grow by 6,4 percent in 2013.
Agriculture accounts for 15 percent of GDP, and contributes 16 percent to export earnings.