Editorial comment: the new season opens up more opportunities

The herald

The increase in agricultural production over the past season will continue into the season about to open, with the overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans with farms now coming on board and proven production systems in square.

In the smallholder sector, Agritex reports that more than 1.8 million households, or nearly 80 percent of those that might be eligible, are now enrolled in the Pfumvudza program, as most of those who have stepped back l last year rushed to get on board after seeing what sort of crop their neighbors have reaped and no doubt envious of the money they’ve earned and are spending now.

Since entry into the device always relies on the engagement of the farmer, undergoing training and carrying out the required soil preparation, those whose engagement is only a word will remain outside the device. . But, encouragingly, Agritex reports that more than 207,000 farmers have now completed land preparation on the five plots, and over 600,000 other farmers were more than halfway through the preparation of three or four of their plots. and the others were pushing hard to be ready on time.

Seed and fertilizer inputs are now in stock, and distribution will begin soon. This year there is a desire to start planting as soon as possible, as soon as enough rain has fallen to ensure germination, with simple bucket irrigation even being recommended to start early, possible since the conservation farming method now practiced exceptionally relies on high yields on small plots, rather than sparse plantings on larger areas.

So next year there should be even more money floating around in rural Zimbabwe as 80 percent of households shift from subsistence farming to commercial farming and start earning money from it. to their business. This not only elevates what is by far the largest group of Zimbabweans living in poverty, but also opens up many more opportunities for the manufacturing and service sectors of the economy.

With this number of families having a little, if not a lot of money, the new combined markets will drive economic growth. While other sectors need to make sure they have the right products of the right quality at the right price, this is still a positive development as manufacturers see small farmers as customers rather than ‘them’.

All of this will continue to drive real economic growth, production-based growth, better crops and more products purchased by those who harvest those crops. This contrasts with the so-called growth that vanishes into the air during the smallest of the downturns.

However, this increase in agricultural production will begin to present new opportunities and could create problems. The important part of sustaining growth is having markets. This year’s harvest appears to meet all of Zimbabwe’s grain needs, fair.

Obviously, we need carry-over stocks, so an increase in grain production will still find internal markets.

But we have to start thinking, at least from this time next year, about how much grain we should be growing. Export markets might be hard to find, as our neighbors are also involved in agricultural reform and much of the region is now pushing for self-sufficiency.

The surplus we are growing this season can be marketed internally, although we need to make sure our storage is adequate and first class, but we may be nearing our limit in some grains. Farmers will therefore need to diversify as they increase their production.

A huge gap in our production remains oilseeds. The crops are increasing rapidly, but there is plenty of room for growth. A good number of small farmers have tried soybeans over the past season and have gained experience in what is a new crop for many. This season, these pioneers will now doubt whether to push their yields and set a practical example for neighbors who try cultivation for the first time.

The cotton harvest increased significantly during the last season, although the payment issues are still being resolved but with significant progress. In any case, new harvests are now paid for, only past harvests still being purchased under conditions. This provides a larger amount of cottonseed for the processing of the oil.

Sunflowers are starting to make a comeback as a standard crop in small-scale farm households. Production had for some reason plummeted, but the sunflower seed market exists and at least one major cooking oil maker has marketed pure sunflower oil as a premium product. An interesting point with sunflower is that it can be processed and sold in a community, rather than having to undergo industrial processing.

While this year’s crops have dramatically reduced our import bill, cooking oil processors remain in the top tier of buyers of foreign currency at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe auction, so crop growth of Oilseeds will find a ready market and, given the current relative prices, can be turned into much easier to export products once we have moved beyond self-sufficiency.

One point our agricultural experts need to consider is canola oil, which is considered a medium grade cooking oil. It comes from rapeseed, the same plant that is grown in every Zimbabwean garden for its leaves.

There are varieties which are cultivated for seeds in other countries and these seeds are the raw material of edible oils.

Research needs to be done on these oilseed varieties to find out how they grow in Zimbabwe, and if anyone can find or develop a variety that offers good oilseeds and decent vegetable leaves, we might have a winner.

Other business initiatives see pilot projects for orchards and the introduction of other crops. It is important. As our farmers master modern farming methods and mechanization begins to spread into farming communities, openings will develop for new crops to meet new markets, both internal and external.

We must continue to advance our research, not only to produce better varieties and better farming methods for existing crops, but also be ready and willing to research our new crops, acclimatize the varieties to Zimbabwean conditions and start adding to our list of things we produce.

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