Zimbabwe whose agricultural output grew by 34 percent last year pushing overall economic growth to 8 percent is expected to have another bumper harvest this year and this could propel gross domestic growth by as much as 15 percent.
Agriculture had been the country’s mainstay for years but declined immediately after the country’s land reform programme. Though new farmers were inexperienced, agricultural support was immediately withdrawn leaving the new farmers to rely on a cash-strapped government, dealing a severe blow to the sector and at the same time giving credence to the argument that the new policy was a disaster.
The new farmers have now settled down and their operations are being boosted by the resurgent economy which is now allowing them independent sources of credit.
Central bank governor Gideon Gono says in his latest monetary policy statement that farmers had planted 660 000 hectares of maize by the end of December compared to 530 000 hectares in 2009.
If the crop was not severely affected by dry spells the country could have a bumper harvest. The output might, however, be affected by an outbreak of army worm in the major maize growing areas but measures had been put in place to control the situation.
Tobacco output could increase to 170 to 200 million kgs up from 123 million kgs last year. Last’s crop caught everyone by surprise as only 58 million kgs had been reaped the previous year.
There is growing interest in the crop because of the firming prices and the fact that farmers are paid in United States dollars which the country is now using. Another boost has been the return of international buyers such as Japan Tobacco Industries and Premier Tobacco. Last year 65 percent of the crop was grown under contract.
Cotton production which has always been dominated by small-scale farmers is expected to increase from 260 000 tonnes to 300 000. It was 211 000 tonnes in 2009. Production is benefiting from the availability of financing and marketing arrangements which protect both cotton farmers and cotton buyers by prohibiting side marketing.
Sugar output is also expected to increase by 100 000 tonnes driven by higher production levels at Hippo Valley and Triangle. Last year output was estimated at 350 000 tonnes up from 259 000 tonnes in 2009 due to significant support from the European Union.