The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) has said maize production this year would decline by 70% from the 2014/15 season due to erratic rains caused by El Nino.
ZCFU president Wonder Chabikwa told NewsDay if the situation remained the same, the nation was heading for disaster.
“We are still languishing in drought. Crops were saved from wilting and have recovered. We are expecting rains this week because, if not, crops are going to die. If the situation remains as it is, we are expecting below 50% to 70% of what we achieved last year. But if the situation improves, it would be higher than that,” he said.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing an El Niño-stimulated dry spell, characterised by extremely hot and dry weather conditions, which have left people and livestock in Matabeleland, Manicaland, and Masvingo provinces in dire straits.
Chabikwa said farmers were losing their livestock in thousands and urged them to destock. He said farmers should sell some of their livestock and buy stock feed to save their animals from death.
He said government should invest more in irrigation to boost food production in the country.
The country is targeting a minimum of two million metric tonnes of maize this agricultural season through massive investment in irrigation to mitigate climate change. However, due to looming drought, the country might realise less than a quarter of that.
Zimbabwe has also depended on foreign developmental partners and donor agencies in the past decade to fill the deficit each year.
Zimbabwe needs two million tonnes of maize annually, but usually produces just above 1,2 million tonnes.
According to Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, farmers need about $1,8 billion to finance a normal agricultural season. But at the moment they are hovering between $100 million and $200 million.
The country is currently grappling with a food deficit and people in rural areas have started suffering from hunger. The national deficit of 700 000 tonnes of maize is being addressed through importation of grain from a number of countries by both the government and the private sector.
Last week, central bank governor John Mangudya said government had secured $200 million from a regional bank to import maize, as its strategic grain reserves had stocks that would last up to September. The revelation comes as the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) warned that the severe drought in Southern Africa would drive food assistance needs in 2016 and 2017.
“Current food insecurity is already worse than usual in Southern Africa and will likely deteriorate further over the coming two to three months. While April/May harvests will improve food access in the short-term, food security is likely to begin deteriorating by July, reaching its peak between December 2016 and March 2017,” Fewsnet said.
“In addition to reduced staple and cash crop production at the household level, the major driver of acute food insecurity over the coming year is likely to be further increases in staple food prices.”