Mat South Potato Producer Laments Lockdown Induced Losses

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By Mbekezeli Ncube

THE prolonged Covid-19 lockdown has brought more harm to potato production that any other crop being produced at the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) Trek Antelope Estate in Maphisa, Matabeleland South.

This was revealed by the Estate manager, Alec Chinyayi in an interview with

Antelope Estate is one of the biggest potato producers in Matabeleland South.

The project has customers in Bulawayo, which is closer to the area, and as far afield as Mbare Musika in Harare.

The project also produces maize and wheat which it supplies to the Grain Marketing Board.

The lockdown was first imposed in the country end of March last year as a tool aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Chinyayi said even though potatoes can be planted all year round, the lockdown dealt a bigger blow to the vegetable’s production considering it required a lot of labour, yet people’s movements were being restricted.

“On potatoes, the Estate was dealt a major blow and we were left counting our losses since much labour is required on picking, grading and packing our potatoes.

“Just like everyone, we could not hire many contract workers for maize and potato harvesting and we had to restrict workers’ movements to Maphisa business centre except for essentials and no one could enter our premises.

“Of late, we are encouraging our workers to get vaccinated,” he said.

Chinyayi also said on green mealies, Antelope Estate only lost bridge income although he remained satisfied with the yields.

“We only lost bridge income on green mealies, but the yields are satisfactory. We are doing tradition field crops as grain crops are planted.

“Harvesting occurs between five to six months and we do mechanical harvesting where human input is minimal.

“Due to heavy rains experienced during summer 2020-21 season, there was logging. This is where lots of labour was required to pick up fallen cobs and later feed unto the combine,” he said.