Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Crisis as Zimbabwe faces ‘disastrous’ farming season

Crisis as Zimbabwe faces ‘disastrous’ farming season

Thursday, 12 January 2012 17:30

Owen Gagare

ZIMBABWE faces a major humanitarian crisis with the Agricultural Technical 
and Extension Services (Agritex) and other farming organisations projecting 
a 1,5 million tonne maize deficit in the 2011/12 agricultural season. A 
survey by Agritex estimated that 247 000 hectares of maize was planted 
countrywide by December 31 last year, down from 379 993 in the previous 
farming season.

The development means Zimbabwe is only likely to harvest about 346 000 
tonnes of maize against a consumption of two million tonnes, unless the crop 
planted this month does well — which is highly unlikely according to 
farming organisations.

Zimbabwe produced about 1,5 million tonnes of maize in the 2010/11 season, 
marking a third consecutive annual increase, despite recording a deficit of 
about 500 000 tonnes which saw people in the country’s southern provinces of 
Masvingo and Matabeleland South and some parts of  Manicaland and Midlands 
requiring food aid.

More people are, however, likely to require food aid this agricultural 
season since projections show that harvests may decline by as much as 60%.
The hectarage under small grains, such as sorghum and millet, also declined 
from 136 131ha to 130 944ha, putting the country’s food security further at 
risk at a time neighbouring countries have stopped grain exports.

About 45 000ha of cotton had been planted by December 31, down from 107 
727ha in the previous farming season while land planted with soya-beans went 
down from 13 674ha to 5 079ha.

Tobacco production is also set to go down after 39 393ha was planted, down 
from 43 545.

Farming organisations have attributed the decline in hectarage to a 
combination of factors, among them, the late onset of the rains, lack of 
agricultural support by the government and financial institutions as well as 
lack of security of tenure resulting in farmers failing to access private 

Commercial Farmers Union president Charles Taffs said the nation should 
brace itself for a big disaster this year.

“About 247 000ha had been planted by 31 December and using an average yield 
of 1,4 tonnes per hectare, we can expect to harvest about 346 000 tonnes. We 
consume two million tonnes, so how are we going to address the shortfall?” 
Taffs said.

“Fine, there has been a lot of subsidised seed going around in recent days, 
but we don’t expect much from maize planted after 15 December. It’s a 
disaster, because we are the worst prepared in 50 years.”

Taffs said the humanitarian situation was aggravated by the fact that South 
Africa was also importing maize and wheat, while Malawi was experiencing 
economic problems which have affected its agriculture resulting in the 
country suspending exports.

Zambia was expecting a reduced harvest and has stopped grain exports to 
build its reserves.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Donald Khumalo said the country 
was likely to have a deficit of about 1,5 million tonnes although he 
believed Agritex could have overestimated the hectarage put under crops.

“We have basically lost direction as a country and we are not approaching 
agriculture with the seriousness it deserves. Right now we are in January 
and the farmers are rushing to collect seed and fertiliser from the Grain 
Marketing Board depots. Why now, why not in October?” said Khumalo.

“We don’t expect those that are planting now to have meaningful harvests, 
unless they have irrigation.”

Khumalo said there was need for the government, donor community and 
financial institutions to work together to ensure productivity on farms.
“The donor community should support the black person on the land. There are 
people who are still mourning for loss of land, but we are saying let’s move 
on, let’s support the people who are on the land for the good of the 
country,” Khumalo said.

Paul Zakariya, Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director, said: “Crop 
hectarage sharply declined in part due to the late onset of rains and the 
late disbursement of inputs to farmers. It is strange that at this time of 
the season GMB is still distributing inputs. Maize hectarage planted between 
November and December declined by about 50%, compared to the same period 
last season,

“This means yields will also go down sharply. Another factor that led to a 
reduction in hectarage is obviously the inadequate funding availed to 
farmers by government and other supporting stakeholders. As a result of the 
prevailing liquidity crunch, contracting firms have failed to generate 
sufficient resources required to fund the agricultural season which needs no 
less than US$2 billion to realise full potential.”

Most communal farmers failed to purchase inputs on time citing the failure 
by the GMB to pay them for the grain delivered during the last agricultural 


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