Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Fertiliser shortage threatens farmers

Fertiliser shortage threatens farmers

Thursday, 19 January 2012 14:04

Paul Nyakazeya

SHORTAGE of top dressing fertiliser and distribution challenges are 
threatening to negatively affect maize, tobacco and cotton production this 
year, the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) said.
In its latest crop and livestock weekly report, ZFU said the shortage of 
fertiliser was affecting all provinces.

“The major challenge across all provinces is the shortage of top dressing 
fertiliser on the market, including at Grain Marketing Board (GMB),” ZFU 
“The little that is on the market is expensive, with a bag of Ammonium 
Nitrate being sold for US$34,00. Distribution challenges at GMB have 
virtually made the scheme inaccessible to most deserving farmers.”

Top dressing is the term used when dry fertiliser is added on top of the 
soil next to the plant. The benefit of top dressing is that the fertiliser 
seeps into the soil over a longer period of time, using rain or irrigation 
water. In addition, a farmer does not risk disturbing the roots of the 
plants by digging the fertiliser into the soil.

ZFU said the crop stages for maize around the country currently were at 
varied stages, with Mashonaland East at the top dressing stage (four weeks 
after planting).

“The other provinces have the crop at various stages, with some farmers 
still planting. There are reports of moisture stress as the dry spell 
continues in some areas. The maize crop planted with the first rains is 
experiencing moisture stress, especially in areas with light sandy soils. 
The rains that have fallen lately are patchy and poorly distributed,” ZFU 

Farmers began preparing their land for the traditional planting season 
despite not having enough inputs when heavy downpours hit most parts of 
Zimbabwe in early October.

But faltering weather patterns in the region have created uncertainty on 
when the best time to plant crops is, forcing farmers to either rely on 
their own observations and judgment, or the sometimes unreliable advice from 

For Zimbabwean farmers, it is a double edged sword as farming inputs are not 
readily available and are too expensive for many. Farmers are also failing 
to access loans to buy implements and inputs.

Some Zimbabwean farmers are said to be no longer confident about the 
agricultural season since the GMB, traditionally a source of seed and 
fertiliser, indicated that it would not provide free farming inputs to 
small-scale growers.

ZFU said planting of rain-fed tobacco was now tailing off while those who 
irrigate the crop have started reaping and curing.

“Cotton, except for Zambezi valley where planting of cotton is tailing off, 
most provinces have finished planting and are involved in weeding 
operations, taking advantage of the dry spell. Field crop condition is 
ranging from fair to good,” said ZFU.

The immediate past president of the Commercial Farmers Union Deon Theron 
told businessdigest that this farming season was uncertain as in previous 
years farmers were able to access loans to buy inputs such as fertiliser 
which is expensive. Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Silas Hungwe said the 
perennial challenge facing local farmers in acquiring inputs was now 

“As a union we are worried but hopeful government will assist communal 
farmers to avoid importing maize to meet shortfalls,” said Hungwe. “However, 
in urban centres, input shortages and high transport costs could be brought 
to an end by spreading agro-dealerships.”


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