As the nation is struggling to feed its estimated 2.8 million starving citizens, there is more depressing news coming out of Capital Hill as crop approximation results for 2015/16 have indicated the country will record a further drop in maize harvest of around two percent.
The development comes after the country recorded a 30 percent drop in crop output last season—the worst recorded food shortage in nearly 10 years.
According to the 2015/16 agricultural production estimates survey (apes) results of the first round conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, this year’s national maize production is projected at 2 719 425 metric tonnes (MT), which is two percent lower than last year’s final round estimate of 2 776 277 MT.
In an interview on Monday, national coordinator for Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said the figure is likely to further increase to between three and four percent in the third crop estimate expected in April.
“Around this time last year, the rains had stopped and the potato vines and tubers being distributed did not help that much.
“But this year we still stand a chance, because the rains are still coming and planting the vines now can help improve the gloomy situation,” he said.
The estimate also shows that cotton production will significantly decline by 43.2 percent due to what other experts said was adverse weather conditions the country is experiencing as a result of El-Nino.
There will also be a fall in production for other crops like groundnuts, beans and pigeon peas which are expected to decrease by 4.5, 5.2 and 3.1 percent respectively.
However, the country will have solace in that production for the major cash crop, tobacco, will increase from 192 967 541 kilogrammes (kg) in the 2014/15 agricultural season to 211 083 000 kg this season.
Similarly, rice and soya beans production is projected to slightly increase by 1.4 and 6.1 percents respectively.
In terms of livestock, the ministry says, the population of cattle has increased from 1 398 376 to 1 440 706, representing 3.1 percent increase as compared to the final round for the 2014/15 agricultural season.
The population of goats and pigs has also increased by 6.8 percent and 11.8 percent mainly with national fish production also increasing from 120 894 MT to 149 299 MT, representing 23.5 percent increase.
The first round of the survey—whose estimates are based on farmers’ intentions on crops to be grown and related hectare—is conducted between September and January and includes all agricultural commodities, that is, crops, livestock and fisheries while the second round is conducted from February to March. n\