ANALYSTS have projected a good agricultural season owing to the current rains falling around Zimbabwe, but do not guarantee the country’s ability to meet a 3,4% sector rise in the gross domestic product (GDP) if supplementary measures are not put in place.
Climate change is a major threat to the cropping season and would make it difficult to accurately project yields and assess whether the budget target could be realised.
Significant GDP growth estimated for agriculture is a result of expectations that the agricultural season would remain positive into the next harvest.
Metrological services forecaster Lucy Samvura Motsi told Southern Eye Business yesterday that the forecast for the whole season projected normal to above normal rainfall with this month being wet throughout.
“But at the moment we can only give short-term forecasts till the end of the month which is not to say January will be dry,” Motsi said.
She said the entire country experienced substantial rain on Monday with Zaka and Victoria Falls registering the highest figures of 46mm and 42mm respectively.
Despite the seemingly encouraging climate reports, agricultural analyst Donald Khumalo warned against relaxing on the basis of a few days’ rain.
“As it is, agriculture is an opportunistic business which people venture into with faith and for now people should utilise the rains and time which enable them to fully invest in their crops. Once that is done, we will definitely come out with something,” Khumalo said.
The former Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president said season shifts made it difficult to make informed decisions and projections.
“For example, last year we had the heaviest rains in January and this is not characteristic of the country, so there is always room for surprise. All people can do is focus on the best crops for their regions and not waste time on experiments which would not yield much,” Khumalo added.
ZCFU Matabeleland North chairman Winstone Babbage echoed the same concerns saying farmers should heed advice from professionals such as Agritex and farmers’ organisations to improve yields.
“We encouraged farmers to do dry planting and those who did will reap the benefits now because maize needs 120 days to mature and once you use the first rains the possibility of a good harvest is high,” Babbage said.
“With climate change the situation is now very complicated, so we implore every farmer to have their own rain gauge to assess the rainfall patterns in specific areas and be able to make localised decisions. Overdependence on national weather reports can be drastic because, for example, last month they promised us rain, but it did not come,” Babbage added.
In the proposed 2015 national budget, $400 000 was recommended for allocation towards cloud seeding and Babbage said the best way to ensure rainfall was the seeding process.
“The situation is such that rain could fall short later in the season and spoil an otherwise fruitful season so we sincerely hope that money is made availlable.”