Another drought on the horizon

HARARE - Meteorology experts have advised farmers to concentrate on drought-resistant crops in the form of small grains, as the country braces for another drought.

Speaking at the presentation of the National Climate Outlook Forum (Narcof), Barnabas Chipindu, a meteorologist said: “Farmers must reduce hectarage and plant drought-resistant crops to minimise the impact of drought as the food security situation is currently very unstable in the country.”

Farmers in drought-prone areas are hesitant, though. They say the small grains do not have a ready market, so they will stick to maize.

“It is not worthwhile to produce a grain that will not give me a profit at the end of the day,” said Wellington Mushipe a farmer from Buhera, one of the country’s dry areas.

Small grain products are being sold by a few retailers and are exorbitantly priced. Farmers say they do not get value for their labour as wholesalers pay low prices for the crops.

“The absurdity is that wholesalers buy the small grains at a low price from us, but sell to retailers at a high price,” Mushipe said.

“Maize is going for $7 for a 10kg refined mealie-meal bag, 500g of sorghum in the retail outlets is going for $6.

“In my capacity as a consumer I will go for the mealie meal,” another farmer, Muchaitei Paguwa said.

As it stands, Zimbabwe will have to resort to maize imports, as the small grains route is not promising.

Erickson Mvududu, an agricultural economist told the Daily News a drought in Brazil was going to have a depressing impact on Zimbabwe’s buying power.

He said South Africa was preparing for world demand and if not careful, Zimbabwe would suffer as the international market creates demand that pushes prices up.

“Currently, Zimbabwe is benefitting from maize imports coming in from South Africa but will face stiff competition from the Western market and it is possible that it will not be able to match the prices,” said Mvududu.

Despite findings from the 16th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (Sarcof-16) that showed the country was likely to receive normal rainfall, the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department has predicted another drought for the season October 2012 to March 2013.

The food security situation in the country at the moment is unstable as the number of people in need of food aid is 60 percent higher than the one million who needed food assistance during the last season.

Once a regional bread basket, Zimbabwe has struggled to feed itself since 2000 when President Robert Mugabe embarked on the seizure of white-owned commercial farms to resettle landless blacks.

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