Zimbabwe: Govt to Roll Out Potato Farming Programme

Government will soon roll out a "massive" programme for the production of table and Irish potatoes as a measure to boost the country's food security in light of below par summer rain season that characterised the last farming season.

This was revealed by Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri on the sidelines of the 38th Joint Meeting for Sadc Ministers responsible for Water in an interview with Namibian publication -- The Southern Times -- last week.

Zimbabwe is currently harvesting its 2018/19 season crop and is expecting 750 000 metric tonnes of maize and close to 200 000 metric tonnes in small grains which will leave the country in deficit.

The deficit will, however, be slashed as the country is sitting on a strategic grain reserve of 500 000 tonnes from the previous season.

Speaking in an interview which has now been published on the paper's multi-media platforms, Minister Shiri said Government is exploring various options around capitalising on the winter crop as a mitigatory measure against hunger.

President Mnangagwa is on record saying Government will make sure that the country is food secure. Minister Shiri also noted that as high yielders, potatoes will give Zimbabwe more output compared to what the country can get from maize.

"We didn't have a good rain season last summer, we had a false start to the season and the rains tailed off very early," Minister Shiri told Southern Times.

"So most of the farmers who completely rely on rain fed agriculture didn't fare very well. Those with irrigation at least were flexible and they managed to get something. Unfortunately areas in the Eastern Highlands, Buhera, Chikomba and part of Masvingo, crops which had survived the drought were destroyed as a result of Cyclone Idai.

"However, our policy in Zimbabwe is we always maintain a strategic grain reserve of 500 000 tonnes of our staple food which is mostly maize and fortunately we had that in stock and up to now it's still there though stock is running very low.

"What we have done, before we even start to consider grain imports into Zimbabwe is we are encouraging farmers to go into winter maize production and also we are rolling out a programme for massive production for table potatoes or Irish potatoes so that we can actually supplement the maize stocks that we have.

"For example, on a hectare of maize normally considered to be high yield is about 10 tonnes, that's why we have the so-called 10 tonnes club, but with potatoes the varieties available can go up to 70 (to) 80 tonnes per hectare.

"So if we go for potatoes and we do it properly, we can use less hectarage to produce much than would be the case were it maize," he added.

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