Gvt rings famine alarm as Zimbabwe’s maize production plummets 43%

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By Mary Taruvinga

GOVERNMENT is racing against time to save millions of Zimbabweans from starvation after it emerged that the country’s maize production for the 2021/2022 farming season declined by at least 43% because of poor rains.

The grim figures were announced by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister, Monica Mutsvangwa on Wednesday.

“Government wishes to inform the nation that the 2021/22 agricultural season was characterized by the late start of the rains, which were received in the last week of December 2021,” Mutsvangwa said.

“Rainfall distribution was poor in both space and time. This late onset of the rains caused late plantings, which were later affected by the prolonged dry spell. Some farmers were also forced to make several re-plantings as a result of poor crop establishment and the false start to the season,” she said.

“Late rains were received in April 2022, and the impact of these late rains has not yet been captured. Maize production is estimated at 1 557 914 metric tonnes, which is 43% lower than the 2 717 171 metric tonnes which were  produced in the 2020/2021 season,” she said.

According to Mutsvangwa, traditional grains production is projected at 194 100 metric tonnes, which reflects a 44% decline from the 347 968 metric tonnes output of the previous season.

She said the total cereal production projection is 1 752 014 metric tonnes, against a national cereal requirement of 2 267 599 metric tonnes (1 817 599 metric tonnes for human consumption and 450 000 metric tonnes for livestock).

Tobacco production is estimated to decrease by 8% to 183 725 metric tonnes from 200 245 metric tonnes realised last season.

However, improvements are expected in other areas.

Cotton production is estimated at 116 521 metric tonnes in the  season, which is a 41% increase from the 195 991 metric tonnes in the previous season.

Soyabean production is expected to increase by 15% to 82 028 metric tonnes from 71 290 metric tonnes last year, while rice production is estimated to increase by 15% from 468 metric tonnes in the 2020/21 season to 539 metric tonnes in the 2021/22 season.

The assessment further indicates an improvement in the livestock sector.

This is attributable to the successful implementation of the Presidential Dipping Programme, which is being complemented by the Tick Blitz exercise, which continues to have a positive knock on tick borne disease.

The famine warning comes after a report by the United States-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) March report indicating Zimbabweans will require continued food assistance up to 2023.