ZAMBIA’S food security looks certain this year following indications coming through that the upcoming wheat harvest may not be the country’s worst after all.
Statistics gathered by the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) after conducting a post-harvest survey for the period 2013/14 reveals that the country is this year expected to produce up to 294, 283 tonnes of wheat.
Zambia consumes 310, 000 tonnes of wheat, meaning the expected 294, 283 tonnes, plus a carryover stock of 88, 560 tonnes recorded as of May 2014, would leave the country with a surplus of 72, 843 tonnes.
According to experts, this is one of the lowest tonnages produced by Zambia and it comes against an anticipated reduced output in the region.
Initial projections by the Government earlier this year showed that the country’s wheat production would be around 201, 504 tonnes, raising fears of shortages and sky-rocketing bread prices.
“This year, the total area under wheat for the 2013/2014 season has been estimated at 41,417.8 hectares, with indications of 2, 662 hectares of wheat stressed,” according to ZNFU president, Dr Evelyn Nguleka.
“We therefore expect a wheat production of about 294, 283.8 tonnes at a national average yield of 7.25 tonnes per hectare for the wheat crop that is growing normally and a yield rate of five tonnes per hectare for the stressed wheat. These results will, however, be confirmed in October as farmers have just started to harvest this crop.”
Some Mkushi farmers expressed fears in June that wheat production could be affected following reduced area planted at the back of a poor harvest of rains, which resulted in dams inadequately filling up. Some farmers said they had reduced areas planted by over 50 per cent.
Mkushi area is the largest producer of wheat in the country, but the ZNFU says there have been new wheat entrants in Southern and Central Provinces of Zambia who have produced sufficient stocks to cover the anticipated losses.
And Dr Nguleka noted that during the 2013/14 agriculture season, total maize production was 3.162 million, slightly lower than what Government had projected.
The Government had projected that maize output would increase by 30 per cent to 3.4 million tonnes this year.
On other crops, the ZNFU survey showed that 179, 210 tonnes of soya beans had been produced while mixed beans, sorghum, millet and rice were estimated at 51, 801 tonnes, 16, 792 tonnes, 46, 660 tonnes and 64, 876 tonnes, respectively.
In terms of small and medium term livestock production, the population of cattle stood at 2.99 million and pigs at 973,452. Sheep and goat numbers were estimated at 200, 920 and 2.34 million, respectively.
The union revealed that small and medium scale farmers accounted for 96 per cent of the total 3.162 million tonnes maize production.
Despite this huge contribution, Dr Nguleka raised concern over their continued poor yield.
Small and medium scale farmers’ average yield rates were recorded at 2.16 tonnes per hectare.
Large scale farmers on the other hand had an average yield of 6.12 tonnes per hectare while small scale farmers under the ZNFU Lima credit scheme averaged above 4.5 tonnes per hectare.
Dr Nguleka said rising production costs were a major challenge for farmers in the country.
She said Government should focus on reforms and policies that would help bring down costs.
“From results in the post-harvest survey, it goes without saying that farmers are more willing to produce enough to feed our country and for export into the region. However, they too need to make profits and survive,” Dr Nguleka said. –ABN
“The ever rising costs of production and the lower producer prices which are steadily going up and are more inclined to reduce, are constraining the exponential growth of commodity production in the country.”
She urged the government to adopt policies that will curb, if not reduce further, increments in costs of production such as interest rates and agricultural inputs; fuel, electricity, fertiliser and labour.