Dry spell endangers Zimbabwe’s crops
ZIMBABWE is experiencing a dry spell that could cut crop yields but a government official says the country has enough grain reserves to last until next year.
The nation produced 2.1 million tons of maize last year, the highest in two decades thanks to above normal rainfall and government funding to farmers.
But rains have been erratic so far since the summer cropping season started at the end of November, while a long dry spell this month has raised alarm among farmers.
Ben Gilpin, a director at the Commercial Farmers Union, said crops in the maize-producing belts were showing signs of moisture stress while in the northern and southern parts of the country crops were wilting.
Gilpin said crops planted early, which were at the critical flowering and tussling stages, urgently required rain water but those planted later could already be a complete writeoff.
“What we are seeing is that the crop situation is pretty dire throughout the country. In the more marginal areas crops are already wilting,” Gilpin said.
The US Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) in its January report said the poor rains were expected to affect the availability of seasonal green crops for consumption.
“The high likelihood of below-average rains for the remainder of the season is likely to significantly reduce crop yields and harvests across most parts of the country,” Fewsnet said.
Gilpin said the tobacco crop, which reaps more than $800m (R9.5bn) annually and is the economy’s second-biggest export earner, had not been affected yet because it was more resistant to dry spells.
Patchy rains and pest outbreaks have also threatened maize production in Zambia and Malawi, while journalists who travelled to Lesotho this weekend saw fields of stunted maize that looked in poor condition. – Reuters