Government and its partners have resorted to hiring mobile dryers and shellers to speed up harvesting of winter maize most of which remains stuck in the fields in Lowveld almost two months after the scheduled harvesting period.
While over 1000 hectares of the staple crop have been harvested to date, more than 2500ha remains uncleared forcing Government to scramble for machinery to speed up the process and salvage the crop.
Harvesting of the winter crop was supposed to be completed in December last year but incessant rains meant the process was delayed as the fields were muddy and wet making it hard to deploy combine harvesters.
Hiring mobile dryers and shellers from private players and use of manual labour is making the whole venture more expensive.
However, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira remains upbeat though he lamented the rising costs involved in harvesting the crop.
He says he is happy that deliveries of the first tranche of harvested maize has already been delivered at GMB Nandi Depot in Chiredzi.
“We are racing against time and we have leant our lessons from this experience which means this year we have to finetune and improve on timing because we have been badly exposed by the incessant rains which is forcing us to use manual labour and hire expensive mobile dryers a d shellers.”
Minister Chadzamira says using manual labour in place of combine harvesters means harvesting will take long meaning more costs for the project. However the advantages still outweigh the demerits,” said Minister Chadzamira.
He lamented delays in harvesting the winter maize saying it was now hard to justify rating the crop as “winter” maize with harvesting almost coinciding with early planted summer crop.
Despite all the challenges an estimated between 16000-18000 tonnes of staple grain are expected to be realised from the current crop up from a measly 1156 tonnes from only 327ha last year.
Our of this year’s crop,Tongaat Huletts Zimbabwe accounted for 2500ha,Masvingo Development Trust 1000ha and small-holder farmers at Chilonga irrigation scheme 159ha.
Government wants the winter maize initiative expanded to cut the food import bill through full exploitation of idle water bodies in Masvingo province and other parts of the country.