Combine harvesters gap threaten agric output

ZIMBABWE’S anticipated bumper harvest this year is threatened amid indications farmers do not have enough combine harvesters to reap their crops, raising fears of field losses.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

The country is projecting a harvest of more than 2 million metric tonnes of grain, including small grains such as sorghum and millet, following good rains received this year.

Annually, Zimbabwe needs about 1,8 million metric tonnes for consumption, including small grains such as millet and sorghum.

However, in a telephone interview with NewsDay, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa, said the projections could come to naught given the current shortage of combine harvesters.

“We are looking at a bumper harvest this year but our biggest worry is that we are seeing a huge deficit of combine harvesters. Combine harvester capacity is very low and we are appealing to the government to help us by importing combined harvesters and have farmers pay through a stop order,” Chabikwa said.

“We want maize to be harvested on time and failure to that can lead to field losses. This is because if we delay harvesting the crops, we lose through natural elements. We don’t want field losses. This is a threat to our perceived bumper harvest as it will affect our national target.”

He said farmers were also looking at possible solutions to the problem. In addition to the shortage of combine harvesters, farmers also face constraints in transporting their produce to the Grain Marketing Board.

But Agriculture deputy minister (cropping) Davis Marapira urged farmers to start harvesting their crops manually whilst they are mobilising combine harvesters.

“Those who are able to harvest their grains manually should also do that whilst we are mobilising combine harvesters from private players. People should not sit and wait for the government,” Marapira said.

“As a country, we have a lot of combine harvesters which were issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe but are lying idle. We want to urge those people to come and register their combine harvesters with the Ministry of Agriculture so that we can help them.”

He said importing combine harvesters would take about four to five months and the harvesting season would have elapsed.

To ensure food security and to reduce dependency on imports, government this season unveiled a $500 million command agricultural programme under which it aims to produce two million tonnes of maize from 400 000 hectares of land.

But critics have dismissed the scheme as a failure due to corruption pervading it.

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