Zimbabwe: Communal Farmers Dominate Crop Production

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Communal farmers have delivered the bulk of the tobacco marketed so far, while the Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report has indicated that they will also score the highest maize yields from the 2019/20 summer cropping season.

According to the report, the national hectarage under maize was 1.5 million with communal farmers accounting for 894 653 hectares from which they are expected to harvest 291 867 tonnes.

A1 farmers planted 321 531ha with a yield estimate of 219 055 tonnes, A2 farmers planted 150 300ha and expect 275 318 tonnes, while the old resettlement sector planted 156 511ha and expects 88 380 tonnes from the season.

Small-scale farmers planted 53 948ha of maize and expect 27 235 tonnes while a further 7 214ha was planted by peri-urban farmers who expect to yield 5 768 tonnes.

It is estimated that on average, communal areas have accounted for about two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s maize production for the last 20 years, as most large-scale farmers have resorted to cash crops like tobacco, paprika, cut flowers and cotton, while growing yellow maize for stock feed, leaving cereal production largely the preserve of communal farmers.

Tobacco farmers have sold 70.9 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf worth US$162.4 million, with the bulk of the deliveries coming from the communal sector.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board weekly bulletin shows that by June 2, farmers had delivered 51.6 million kg of tobacco with communal farmers contributing nearly half of the deliveries.

By June 2, communal farmers had delivered 21.7 million kg — 1 558 691 kgs through the auction floors and 50 108 558 though the contract floors.

About 13.1 million kg had been delivered by A1 farmers, 12.7 million kg from A2 and 3.5 million kg from small-scale farmers.

The agriculture sector is predicted to recover by 5 percent in 2020 with most of this growth driven by tobacco.

Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe chairman Mr George Seremwe said farmers had shifted to tobacco growing because of the ready market and viable prices offered by buyers.

He said unlike other crops where farmers may struggle to get markets, tobacco had a lucrative market.

“The payment modalities of tobacco make it attractive to most farmers. Over the past years, farmers had been experiencing challenges when marketing their produce especially maize, as the Grain Marketing Board took some time to pay them.

“The advent of contract farming for tobacco has also enabled most communal farmers to produce the cash crop. Under contract farming, farmers get funding from the contracting companies and do not have to approach banks.

“Some contracting companies have also put in place ways of encouraging communal farmers to deliver early and settle their debts while curbing side marketing,” he said.

Tobacco has remained a strategic crop for Zimbabwe as many farmers have improved their livelihoods and contributed towards the growth of the economy.

Lands, Agriculture and Minister Perrance Shiri has reiterated the need to assist farmers to access mechanisation, tillage services and acquire more irrigation infrastructure in the tobacco sector to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve productivity.

Tobacco production is expected to decline slightly from the record 259 530 tonnes produced last year to 224 158 tonnes in the current season due to the reduced area planted and the erratic rains, which were experienced.

Government has come up with different initiatives to boost agricultural production in all sectors.

The communal farmers are benefiting from the Presidential Inputs Scheme while commercial farmers are supported through Command Agriculture.

Government has introduced a new farming concept called Pfumvudza to maximise productivity per unit area, even during drought periods, to ensure household and national food and nutritional security.

Pfumvudza involves the utilisation of small pieces of land and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns.

The approach can be used in marginal areas and still give high yields.

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