Grain loan scheme extended

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Agriculture and Mechanisation minister Joseph Made yesterday said government had extended the grain loan scheme to next year to avert imminent food shortages amid reports 500 000 hectares under maize countrywide had been affected by poor rains.

Addressing traditional leaders attending a national Chiefs Council annual conference at Bulawayo City Hall, Made said nearly half of the 1,6 million hectares of this years maize had been declared a write-off.

He said Cabinet on Tuesday debated the issue at length and resolved to extend the grain loan scheme to avert starvation.

We grew 1,6 million hectares of our major crop maize this year compared to 1,8 million hectares we are used to grow, Made said.

This shows a decrease in our maize cropping and out of the current cropping, 500 000 hectares are a write-off, which means there is a food crisis this year.

He said the grain loan scheme would be reviewed after next years summer cropping season. Made said Matabeleland South and North provinces were the worst affected.

Cabinet also agreed that government must look for funds to improve irrigation and wheat farming, said Made without elaborating how much was needed for the whole programme.

He also revealed Cabinet had tasked Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma to minimise power disruptions especially on irrigation farms.

Made said government had established a livestock fund to mitigate against loss of livestock during drought periods.