by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THINGS are looking up for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector this year.
There are strong indications the Southern African country could be self-sufficient in the 2021/2022 marketing year, ending years of food imports.
This could also have a positive impact on food inflation in neighbouring South Africa, over the years the main source of maize imports by the Zimbabwean government amid successive years of drought.
This year’s harvest of the staple maize, according to government’s projections, is expected to surpass the 1,8 million tonnes recorded in the 2016/2017 season.
The World Food Programme (WFP) recently indicated that Zimbabwe’s crop area planted could be higher when compared to last season.
WFP reported that crop conditions were largely good in most parts of the country, with the maize crop reported to be at its early to the late vegetative stage ahead of harvest in April.
Wandile Sihlobo, the chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz), noted if Zimbabwe’s maize production surpassed 1,8-million tonnes as the government and local analysts expect, Zimbabwe could be almost self-reliant in the 2021/2022 marketing year.
“Notably, the improvement will probably be across all agricultural activities, not only maize,” Sihlobo said.
The economist said this was essential for household food security, and maize imports could fall notably from the 2020/2021 marketing year level, which he estimated would be nearly 1 million tonnes to meet annual needs.
“If that is the case there will be implications for South Africa’s maize market,” Sihlobo said.
He pointed out that thus far one of the main drivers of prices in the 2020/2021 marketing year had been growing regional demand, primarily from Zimbabwe.
“If this demand is curtailed there will be less pressure on South Africa’s maize supplies, which could lead to a softening of domestic maize prices, which ultimately bodes well for food price inflation.”
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) stated that favorable rainfall for the 2020/21 season facilitated above-average area planted and significant improvements in water, pasture and livestock conditions.
The agency stated that despite some setbacks such as persistent heavy rainfall, heavy leaching, waterlogging, weed pressure amidst fertilizer shortages above-average national 2021 production was expected.
“National cereal availability for the 2021/22 consumption year is expected to be higher than average following the 2021 harvest. Imports are expected at minimal levels,” FEWS NET stated.
Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, at one among the most productive in Africa, has been on a decline owing to a series of droughts.
Land reform programmes initiated in 2000 by the previous administration of Robert Mugabe (now late) are also blamed for the degeneration.
– CAJ News