ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe’s maize production is estimated to record a 46% decrease to 1.2 million tonnes in the 2018/19 MY as compared to 2.2 million tonnes produced in the previous year, according to USDA’s June 20 GAIN report.

The report further indicates that the country will still have to import about 300,000 tons of corn in the year despite a 15-year high corn carry-over stock of about 500,000 tons.

Crop growing conditions were negatively impacted by erratic rainfall followed a dry spell, and as a result, post estimates that corn area harvested decreased by about 36% to 1.2 million hectares.

2016/17 MY recorded the least of corn crop produced at 512,000 tonnes due to a prolonged 2015/16 drought season, reported to be the worst in the Southern African region.

Zimbabwe has a policy in place that prohibits the cultivation of Genetically Engineered (GE) corn, it imports GE corn for local consumption, though must be milled under government supervision.

Production was affected by cases of fall army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) on corn and sorghum especially on early and late planted corn with an estimated affected corn area at about 125,817 hectares (about 10 percent of corn area planted), according to data by the Zimbabwean Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.

Role of government initiatives

The government introduced the Command Agriculture program with an aim of supporting irrigated and dry land farmers to produce 2 million tons of corn to cover the country’s annual requirement for human consumption and livestock feed.

Under the program, a total of 235,256 hectares of corn were planted in the 2018/19 MY and 37,088 hectares of soybeans.

Also, 5,563 tons

of seed, 57,440 tons of basal fertilizers and 21,387 tons of top dressing fertilizers were distributed.

Another one is the Presidential Input Scheme that supports 1.8 million small-scale and communal farmers with the goal of enhancing corn production.

Through this scheme the Zimbabwean government distributed free inputs for corn production, which included 10kg corn seed, 50kg basal fertilizer and 50kg top dressing fertilizer.

Inputs distributed under this scheme in the 2018/19 MY were 16,060 tons of corn seed, 71,802 tons of basal fertilizer and 26,890 tons of top dressing fertilizers.

Since corn is the main staple food crop for the majority of Zimbabweans, the country’s annual corn requirement for human consumption is forecast to be at around 1.6 million tons, while 300,000 tons of corn is required for livestock feed.

In the year 2016/17, Zimbabwe imported about 1.4 million tons of corn, 26% of this coming from South Africa while the rest was from Mexico, Zambia, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Russia and Mozambique.