202 000 hectares of land has been subscribed for maize and soya beans production for next season under the Command Agriculture Program, with rice having been added to the scheme as the country moves to further reduce food imports.

Interest in the command farming programme has increased this year with 44 982 farmers registering to grow maize and soya beans this year.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of State in his Office, Cde Clifford Sibanda at the National Agri-Business Conference, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the ultimate target is to enable the agriculture sector to go beyond the breadbasket status of yester years.

Preparations are already underway for the 2017/18 agricultural season.

Farmers have already started registering for maize production for the coming season.

As at 16 August 2017, a total of 173 223 hectares of irrigated and dry land had been registered for maize production by 39 714 farmers, including institutions.

For soya beans, a total of 28 818 hectares of irrigated and dry land have been registered by 5268 farmers for the same period.

Cde Mnangagwa challenged researchers and scientists to explore innovative ways of beneficiating tobacco which is being sold raw and earning an average of U$1 billion yearly.

Wheat production which is underway has doubled from last year’s levels with 44 598 hectares having been cultivated.

The Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made announced that rice has been added to the command farming scheme as the product is significantly fueling the import bill.

To boost uptake of soya beans under the Command Agriculture Programme, the government has set the producer price for the crop at $600 per tonne, said Minister Made.

The 2017 annual National Agri-Business Conference was organised by Zimbabwe Agriculture Society (ZAS) and the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF).