The success of the Command Agriculture Programme has generated enthusiasm within the public and private sectors of the possibility of the country reclaiming the bread basket status.

Fertilizer shortages which characterised the planting phase and the armyworm outbreak emerged as the biggest threats to a promising 2016/17 agricultural season.

While the country managed to survive the setbacks with a bumper harvest expected, agriculture experts have highlighted the need for a grand plan and team-work approach in re-positioning the country as a bread basket of the region.

“Now that all the players are motivated enough, there is need to craft a long term grand plan that focuses on resource mobilisation and availability of inputs,” Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Director, Mr Paul Zakariya said.

The country whose trade deficit stood at around US$2 billion in 2016 is confident the improved maize output will result in reduction in imports, revival of agriculture value chain and overall economic performance.

“Going forward, the country should strengthen partnerships among seed manufacturers, fertiliser firms, packaging industry and the financial sector,” ARDA Board Chairperson, Mr Basil Nyabadza said.

Former Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) Board Chairperson, Dr Nigel Chanakira said given the history of agriculture financing challenges and delays in the payments to farmers, there is need for long term funding to the sector.

While the country can afford to celebrate given the anticipated increased maize output, the subdued wheat and oil seeds output should save as a reminder that there is more work to be done in reducing the deficit in other crops.

Meanwhile, with some irrigated maize under the Command Agriculture Programme has reached ripening stage, the uncertainty on availability of combine harvesters, the bad state of roads, timeous availing of resources to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to establish adequate hard stalks which will hold the bulk of the maize, are key areas which need urgent attention.

Farmers with early irrigated crop are already racing against time to secure adequate machinery to clear their maize fields and venture into command wheat farming.

“Delays in the completion of hard stalk at GMB which is expected to hold the bulk of the maize and the bad state of roads are other grey areas which should be urgently looked at,” said Retired Colonel Samuel Muvuti.

There are already reports that about 30 percent of the maize could have been lost owing incessant rains, and the government and farmers have been implored not to take chances on mobilising efficiency harvesting mechanisms to avoid losses which usually come with poor harvesting.