Windhoek – Zimbabwe, just like the rest of the Southern African countries, was severely affected by low rainfalls, effects of climate change and natural disasters such as floods.
The undesired events have seen most SADC member states experiencing food insecurity issues as yields decreased.
It is against this background that Zimbabwe is set to embark on mass potato production.
In an interview, Zimbabwean Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Perrance Shiri told The Southern Times that the mass potato production was a strategy to supplement the maize yields for this year which were badly affected by poor rainfall as well as Cyclone Idai.
“We did not have a good farming season last summer and the rains moved off very early. As a result, most famers who completely relied on the rains did not do very well. However, farmers who have irrigation systems managed to get something. It is also sad to note that there are some areas in the eastern highlands, and in Buhera and Masvingo where some crops had survived, but Cyclone Idai destroyed everything,” said Shiri.
“We are in the harvesting season and we are expecting to yield 730 tonnes of maize and close to 200 000 tonnes of small grains. This means we will have a shortage of 700 000 tonnes of grains which needs to be mobilised one way or the other. Due to the shortage that is likely to happen, we are encouraging farmers to do mass production of table or Irish potatoes as well as winter maize production to implement the maize stock that we have. Potatoes can have more yields in a small piece of land as compared to maize. For example, a hectare of maize can bring 10 tonnes which is considered as a maximum yield while for potatoes, a hectare can bring up to 70 to 80 tonnes,” he said.
He said farmers should consider the high breed approach on winter maize and wheat production because the winter season is usually for wheat production and the two may be competitors for irrigation.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is currently having grains from its reserves, even though it is now running low. According to Shiri, it is the country’s policy to always maintain a strategy of reserving 500 000 tonnes of grains.
The Minister of Agriculture said in the event that the mass production and the winter maize crop farming did not deliver expected results, his government would be forced to import grains.
As part of promoting regional integration in SADC, Shiri said priorities would be given to the SADC member states and best offers would be considered first.