Read full article by Obert Chifamba@The Herald Photo Credit: The Herald
IT seems the growing calls on the need for farmers across the country — from marginal to high potential zones — to incorporate traditional grains in their cropping options are falling on fertile ground, if what came out of the second national crop and livestock assessment report is anything to go by.
Traditional grains output for the 2019/2020 season is estimated at 152 515 tonnes, which is 103 percent more compared to 75 209 tonnes scored in the 2018/2019 term.
Of course, the increase has largely been attributed to increased support from the Presidential Input Support Scheme, encouragement by the Ministry of Agriculture, as well capacity building of farmers.
The reality on the ground suggests that it takes a willing farmer to grow and take care of the crop even if the whole world calls for its production.
If farmers had not embraced the traditional grains, no one was going to enforce their production, so they deserve their kudos for the feat.
Let’s hope that the fact that this crop genre is drought tolerant and matures earlier than crops like maize will endear it to most growers, which will translate into more food security.
Traditional grains are ideal for the country’s drought prone regions like Matabeleland region, Masvingo, parts of Mashonaland Central and bits of Manicaland.
It is exciting to note that blue chip companies like Delta and Ingwebu are doing out-grower schemes or contracting growers, while the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) can also do exchanges of traditional grains for maize at a matching weight.
The Government recently added the icing to the cake when it set the producer price of a tonne of traditional grains at $21 913, which makes them even more lucrative than maize that is selling for $21 000 per tonne, while their low cost of production makes them more attractive given that farmers are in business and want to maximise on profits.
Sorghum production, for instance, is expected to be 103 684 tonnes this season, which is 158 percent more than the 40 215 tonnes obtained in the 2018/2019 season.
Finger millet production is expected to be at 9 799 tonnes, which marks a 41 percent increase from the slightly more than 6 947 tonnes produced in the 2018/2019 season.
Additionally, pearl millet output is expected to be at 39 032 tonnes, which is 39 percent more than the 28 047 tonnes harvested for the 2018/2019 season.
Hectarage for sorghum and the output substantially increased in the current season due to increased support from the Government through the Presidential Input Support Scheme.
Essentially, production increased by 158 percent from 40 125 tonnes produced in the 2018/2019 season to the 103 684 tonnes scored in the current season.
One exciting observation was that it was the communal sector that largely dominated sorghum production, accounting for 78 percent of total production, although the average yields for the sector are still low compared to their A2, small-scale and old resettlement farming counterparts.
With more support both materially and in terms of extension, communal farmers can still produce more and like always retain their role as producers of most of the country’s food.
Pearl millet on the other hand increased in both area and production in the current season due to increased Government support under the Presidential Input Support Scheme, which saw production increasing from 28 046 tonnes in the 2018/2019 season to 39 032 tonnes netted in the current season. This represents a 39 percent increase in output.
Again, the communal sector contributed 34 700 tonnes, which is about 89 percent of the total production.
Of course, yield levels of pearl millet are still very low compared to available commercial varieties but can easily rise with more agronomic instruction and resource support.
Output for finger millet also shot from the 6 947 tonnes produced in the 2018/2019 season to 9 799 tonnes for the 2019/20 term although the yield levels remain low at 0,28 tonnes per hectare.
Finger millet production remains largely dominated by the communal sector, but yield levels have remained very low across all sectors.
Mashonaland East province stole the limelight in the production of groundnuts and was followed by Midlands.