Maputo — Mozambican farmers lost 188,000 hectares of crops to pests and the vagaries of climate in the first quarter of this year, according to Agriculture Minister Higino de Marrule.
Speaking at the opening of a meeting of his Ministry's Coordinating Council in Maputo on Thursday, Marrjule said that the area lost was 1.2 per cent of the total area planned for production in the 2017/18 agricultural year.
The crop most affected was maize, with a loss of 116,000 hectares. Much of this was due to infestation by the fall armyworm. Excessive rainfall in northern and central Mozambique and irregular rains in the south also contributed to the losses.
Despite the losses, Marrule was confident that Mozambique will remain self-sufficient in maize, both for domestic consumption and for the milling industry.
He expected a harvest this year of 3.3 million tonnes of grain compared with 2.6 million in 2017 (this would be an increase of almost 27 per cent).
The production of beans and other pulses is expected to rise from 707,000 tonnes in 2017 to 816,000 tonnes this year, an increase of 15.7 per cent. The amount of root crops expected from this year's harvest is 14.2 million tonnes, an increase of 11.8 per cent on the 2017 figure of 12.7 million tonnes.
As for cash crops, Marrule said the greatest increase was in cotton, with an estimated production of 80,000 tonnes, compared with 52,000 tonnes the previous year, a huge increase of 53 per cent.
For sugar cane the increase was 45 per cent, rising from 2.9 million to 4.2 million tonnes. Marrule put this down to a 10 per cent increase in the area planted with cane, and "the consolidation of private investments in this sub-sector".
For cashew nuts, however, there was a decline - in the period under analysis only 126,000 tonnes were marketed, which was 85 per cent of the target figure, and eight per cent less than the previous year. 32,600 tonnes of cashews were exported raw, while the Mozambican processing industry absorbed the other 47,800 tonnes.
Marrule said the government is continuing to promote employment in the cashew industry. Currently cashew processing factories employ 15,200 wokers, and the sector "has the potential to continue generating income for households", he said.
As for livestock, the main increase was in chickens. The amount of chicken meat sold was 94,800 tonnes, an increase of 64 per cent on the previous year. Beef production rose by 19 per cent, from 2,600 to 3,100 tonnes.
The agricultural extension network had grown, Marrule said. This year 1,815 extensionists assisted 636,845 producers - 12 per cent more than the 568,520 helped last year. Marrule promised that the government will hire more extensionists to improve the ratio of extensionists to producers.
He stressed the importance of agricultural research, notably in the production of improved seeds resistant to climate change.
Marrule warned that the coming 2018/2019 agricultural year will take place "in a context of scarcity of resources, which challenges us to prioritise planning aimed at actions that have an impact on production".
Since 2019 is the last year in the current government's five year programme, Marrrule urged each agricultural sub-sector to revisit the targets contained in the programme, and prioritise their implementation.
Climate change was a serious threat, the Minister said, contributing to the spread of pests and diseases. "We must be permanently prepared for epidemiological surveillance, and for pest and disease control, paying particular attention to those pests that attack crops that are crucial to food security".