The Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made says the 2017-2018 agricultural season, which has been predicted to have normal rains, has begun on a good note despite the irrigated tobacco crop having been damaged by hailstorms.
The hailstorms have also affected the wheat crop which was on the fields due to inadequate number of combine harvesters.
Regarding the preparedness for the cropping season, Dr Made said 1.8 million households have been targeted for the Presidential Input Scheme in terms of maize and small grains.
The scheme has also seen the addition of soya beans for nitrogen fixing and the other benefits of edible oil, soya cake for livestock and soyamilk and chunks which are exportable.
400 000 families will also be supported in growing cotton under the scheme for the third year running.
For the first time, small holder tobacco farmers will also receive support from the government to the tune of US$22 million loan facility.
For the second year running, the Special Maize Import Substitution Programme includes wheat in the winter and soya beans.
The government is also mobilising resources for the livestock sector under the Command Import Substitution Programme and cabinet is finalising the decision on that issue.
Minister Made said challenges being faced include prices which are too high and the government has allowed those with free funds to import.
He however, said it is essential that those who wish to import to have their free funds cleared by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) first before approaching the relevant ministries for permission to import.
He said the government is considering sourcing the inputs itself and selling to farmers at a reasonable price.
Expectations are high that the 2017-2018 cropping season will be another success story to build on the achievements of last year when Zimbabwe attained a bumper harvest that should see the country regaining its bread basket status again.
Situation in Mat North
Farmers in Matabeleland North Province have already received over 50 percent of inputs under the Presidential Input Scheme and have intensified preparations for this year’s agriculture season.
Matabeleland North Provincial Agritex Officer, Mr Dumisani Nyoni said he is impressed with the level of preparations around Umguza and Hwange but said there are slight problems in areas like Binga due to the inaccessibility of the area.
On the issue of draught power, Mr Nkomo said the cattle in the region are showing good signs but however decried the state of tractors released by the government under the mechanisation programme which he said are now beyond service.
He added that most farmers, whose farms are not fenced, are now waiting for people to start looking for their domestic animals before they start full preparations for the upcoming season.
Matabeleland South preparations
More than 3000 hectares of land have been targeted for the Command Agriculture Programme in the province this cropping season, as more farmers show interest in the scheme.
The figure is almost double the figure of 1900 hectares planted last year.
In an interview with the ZBC News, the Provincial Crop and Livestock Officer, Ms Simingaliphi Ngwabi said 40 tonnes of maize seed and 112 tonnes of Compound D fertiliser have so far been received.
He further implored farmers in the province to stagger their crops across the season, as well as grow small grains so that they are assured of a meaningful harvest.
In total, Matabeleland South Province is looking to put 125000 hectares under maize, 33000 hectares under sorghum and 35000 hectares is targeted for the production of pearl millet.
Meanwhile, due to the good rains received last season that saw good pasture cover and improved water supplies, Matabeleland South did not record any livestock deaths.