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Zimbabwe: Maize output must surpass 2 million tonnes - Gumbo

06 March 2007, The Herald/AllAfrica

Harare: Maize production in Zimbabwe should surpass two million tonnes if re-establishment of strategic grain reserves and creation of export opportunities into the region are to be realised, Minister of Agriculture Cde Rugare Gumbo has said.

Addressing 54 senior officers from South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe attending the Joint Staff Course Number 20 at the Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare yesterday, Cde Gumbo said sorghum was an important crop for food security.

The course is the highest programme offered by the college to senior officers from the rank of major or lieutenant colonel.

"In more specific terms, future emphasis should be placed on mass production of all commodities with a strategic focus on food crops initially to re-establish the strategic grain reserve.

"Thereafter, the ministry will concentrate on production of critical raw materials for the local industry ensuring appropriate product beneficiation," said Cde Gumbo.

He said the basic infrastructure for the massive production thrust was already in place.
Cde Gumbo said livestock also played a very important role in the economy and as such, his ministry would increase the number of livestock in both quality and quantity to service the domestic market and the emerging markets in the East.

"Tobacco is an important crop that brings in the much-needed foreign currency. Current infrastructure has the capability to handle a crop of up to 200 million kilogrammes.

"The ministry will promote tobacco production to the extent where the existing infrastructure can be fully utilised. This will boost exports and create employment," said the minister.

He said those measures would be vigorously pursued as the nation strives to turn around the economy.

The land reform programme, Cde Gumbo said, was presently characterised by clattered pieces of legislation that were not properly co-ordinated and there was need to build up a set of legislative measures that would provide strength and stability to the programme.

He said incentives to encourage farmers to produce such as rewarding them for their produce through realistic prices, provision of the means of production, dialogue with them to solicit their support and involvement in the production of key strategic crops were necessary.

"There has already been a notable expansion of agricultural colleges that train extension personnel. It is important that thought be given to increasing institutions that train farmers," he said.

Cde Gumbo said production of oilseeds should bring improvement in capacity utilisation of the oil expressing and manufacturing infrastructure already in place.

"Olivine Industries, Surface Investments, United Refineries and other small-scale oil-processing entities can only operate at full capacity if production of soya beans, sunflowers and groundnuts is greatly increased," said the minister.

Cde Gumbo said the challenges facing the land reform programme include making land more productive, ensuring availability of inputs to farmers as well as stabilising the agricultural labour market through the provision of sustainable and affordable wages for farm workers to guarantee success.

He said the already started process of granting 99-year leases to A2 farmers and permits to A1 farmers must be speeded up to provide the much-needed security of tenure.

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