Desperate farmers resort to substitutes

Desperate farmers in Matabeleland, whose maize crop has wilted due to the current dry spell, are now trying substitutes such as sunflowers and soya beans.

Sunflowers and soya beans.
Sunflowers and soya beans.

Maize in most parts of the region is now a write-off because of the persistent dry conditions. Gwanda, Inyathi, Beitbridge, Nkayi and Binga are badly in need of rain, not only to save the crops, but also to replenish low soil moisture reserves, start rivers flowing and fill up the dams. “In some instances farmers were forced to plant their maize crop three times.

They are now resorting to substitutes and other short varieties so as to try and remain in business,” said he president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, DonaldKhumalo.

The production cost of maize was very high compared to imported maize. “The problem is that a ton of soya beans is currently being sold for between $500 and $600 while maize is going for $290, which isvery low considering the inputs used,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Farmers Union reports that in some parts of Masvingo and Midlands, the situation is also critical.

“Some good rains continued to be received in parts of Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland provinces,” says its latest weekly market guide. But in the rest of the country crops have permanently wilted – even if the rains were to come now, most of the crops will not recover.

“The availability and quality of grazing has also been affected in these low rainfall areas,” ZFU said, adding that the major challenge remains the shortage of top dressing fertilizer.

“The first day of tobacco sales (Wednesday last week) performed, in most respects, much better than the same day last year. The strict use of the sales booking system seems to have helped to decongest the tobacco floors,” said ZFU.

Late rain-fed tobacco is at varying stages with the majority at topping and suckering stages. Generally the crop is said to be in good condition.

The cotton crop condition varies with region due to the varying rainfall distribution, with the early cotton crop at boll formation while some is still at vegetative stages. “Generally the crop is flourishing and thriving well except in areas badly affected by the long dry spell. Planting of sugar beans and sweet potato continued in high rainfall areas while most soya beans, groundnuts and sunflower are at flowering stages. Some Irish potato is being harvested and on the market,” said ZFU.

Post published in: Agriculture

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