By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka – Zambia has recorded a mixed production of various crops following prolonged droughts that hit most parts of the country in the 2018/19 farming season with maize dropping by over 400,000 tonnes, a report by the Ministry of Agriculture has revealed.
Production of potatoes is forecast to increase to 38,786 tonnes from 13,546 tonnes recorded a season earlier, mixed beans set to rise in output to 58,705 tonnes from 52,451 tonnes, representing 12 percent increase.
Burley tobacco output is set to rise up to 8,417 tonnes from 5,102 tonnes, virgin tobacco production is set to slow down by four percent to 12,839 tonnes from 13,382 tonnes. but other crops were affected by army worms and over four months of dry spells.
Groundnuts production is set to decrease by 28 percent to 130,825 tonnes from the previous 181,772 tonnes with rice output forecast to decrease by 31.3 percent to 29,584 tonnes from an earlier 43,063 harvested in 2017/18 season.
National cassava flour production for 2018/19 season is poised to decrease by two percent to 1,009,146 tonnes from 1,025,575 tonnes of cassava flour, equivalent produced during the last season. Sorghum is seen declining by 49 percent to 6,684 tonnes from 13,130 tonnes yielded last season.
Millet is seen slowing down by 23 percent to 24,845 tonnes from an earlier 32,278 tonnes harvested last season. Soya beans is likely to decrease by seven percent to 281,389 tonnes from 302,720 tonnes. This is on account of 19.6 percent reduction in the national yield from 1.46 tonnes per hectare last season to 1.18 tonnes per hectare this season and reduced rainfall in some parts of the country.
Seed cotton production is forecast to reduce by 17.8 percent to 72,508 tonnes from 88,219 tonnes last season, Sweet potato production output is likely to slow down to 109,336 tonnes from 183,280 tonnes produced in the last season, representing a fall of 40 percent in output.
Cowpeas is likely to decline in production by 47.8 percent to 3,566 tonnes from 6,824 tonnes last season, sunflower is also expected to decline in output to 34,208 tonnes from, representing 28 percent.
Minister of Agriculture, Michael Kalombe, announced in a crop forecast report earlier that maize output declined to 2,004,389 tonnes from last season’s 2,4 tonness, representing a decline of 16 percent.
Small and medium scale farmers are expected to contribute up to 94.5 percent or 1,893,845 tonnes to the total maize production, while the large scale farmers are expected to produce 110,544 tonnes.
National average yield rate for maize declined to 1.29 tonnes per hectare from 1.72 tonnes per hectare last season. Small and medium scale farmers recorded an average maize yield rate of 1.24 tonnes per hectare, representing a reduction from 1.68 tonnes per hectare. Large scale farmers recorded an average maize yield rate of 3.74 tonnes per hectare on account of reduced rains in the growing season.
Katambo noted that although there is a significant reduction in maize outturn, Zambia will carry over a total 474,515 tonnes of maize, it had as at 1 May this year. The Food Reserve Agency is holding 303,475 tonnes, and the Grain Traders Association has 51,474 tonnes.
The Millers Association of Zambia is bringing 21,204 tonnes while large scale farmers are holding 36,362 tonnes and small and medium scale farmers have 62,000 tonnes.
Total supply of maize available for the 2019/2020 marketing season is 2,478,389 tonnes. Of the 17 million maize consuming population in Zambia, the country requires 1,9 million tonnes, with 1,6 million tonnes reserved for human consumption and 409,018 tonnes for industrial consumption.
To ensure food security in Zambia, the country banned all export of maize and maize meal.
“All maize and mealie meal exports remain suspended,” added Katambo.
Recently, some stakeholders expressed reservations at government’s export policy inconsistencies, which have cost the country a staggering US$1.4 billion in earnings from foreign markets, where the crop is fetching an average US$290 a tonne, which if allowed to trade, would have helped ease foreign currency pressures.
Zambia’s foreign reserves fell to a low of US$1.2 billion in February, representing two months of import cover, according to central bank data.