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Preliminary results of the second crop assessment show that Zimbabwe is likely to harvest more than 1,6 million tonnes of maize this season, sources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development have revealed.

The country requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize for human and livestock consumption annually. The sources said the crop assessment was still under way, but indications were pointing towards a bumper harvest.

“We are still to come up with the exact yield projection, but we have observed that most provinces registered improvements in maize production and we may register an excess in maize,” said a source who cannot be named for professional reasons.

“There have been great improvements in Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North,” she said.

There has also been a notable increase in small grains, sugar beans, groundnuts and cotton production, as well as in other crops.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said he could only comment when the final report was ready.

“What is important is that we are now coming to the end of the season and we should be focusing on the Grain Marketing Board in respect of the Strategic Grain Reserve, he said.

“Cabinet has directed that we speed up mobilisation of the financial resources so that whatever price we determine, we will be able to pay farmers on time.”

Dr Made said Government would this year provide a floor price for small grains, adding that they would fetch slightly more than maize.

“I am expecting that Cabinet will agree on a price that encourages farmers to deliver their crops and be able to buy inputs in preparation for the winter and summer cropping seasons,” he said.

Dr Made expressed concern over the price of inputs, especially fertilisers, which he said were high. He said the Agriculture and Industry and Trade ministries were addressing fertiliser prices.

“In the current crop, we were only able to give farmers under the Government Smallholder Inputs Support Facility 45 percent of the compound D fertilisers that we were supposed to give and 35 percent of the targeted top dressing fertilisers, said Dr Made.

“Suppose we had given farmers 85 percent of the fertilisers, what would have happened in terms of production?”

Dr Made said the results from the 1,6 million households that were given inputs were motivating. Farmers planted 1 655 366 hectares of maize during the 2013 14 summer cropping season, an increase from the 1 408 329ha planted last year.

Source : The Herald