Dry spell en­dan­gers Zim­babwe’s crops

The New Age (Western Cape) - - Business -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.