Zimbabwe is working to significantly reduce the annual cooking oil import bill of around US$200 million by promoting increased production of oil seeds for local production of the commodity.

Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said Zimbabwe was importing between 55 000 and 65 000 tonnes of crude sunflower oil from South Africa every year which is then used to produce cooking oil locals.

As a strategic decision, Government had engaged the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) for the production of sunflower seed so that farmers can embark on massive production of the oil seed crop.

Dr Masuka was speaking during a two-day visit to Mashonaland Central. He said from this season onwards, the Government would add cotton and sunflower in addition to soya beans as oil seed crops.

This development would cause rural industrialisation which would in turn lead to rural development and acceleration of the attainment of Vision 2030.

A false start to the 2021/2022 farming season in Mashonaland Central and ineffective rains have negatively impacted on planting.

Dr Masuka urged farmers to consider short season maize seed varieties, small grains and sunflowers.

The first rains in the province were received mid-November last year and the majority of farmers planted but the seed poorly germinated owing to a dry spell.

Some farmers are busy re-planting now after receiving effective rains on December 31.

While touring Runyararo Farm in Mt Darwin owned by Member of Parliament Barnwell Seremwe, Dr Masuka said this year, provinces in the Southern part of the country received early good rains compared to Mashonaland Central and West.

He said the country had started importing sunflower seed from South Africa which was expected in the country this week.

“We want to ensure that each household includes a plot of sunflowers which is currently the highest paid crop.

“Despite the late rains, we must thrive to ensure maximum productivity. We have farmers whose crops were affected by the dry spell. Starting today, we don’t encourage farmers to plant maize. Plant small grains and sunflower.

“Communal farmers must maximise the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme and use short season varieties or drought tolerant seed.”

Cde Seremwe has 25 hectares of Arda seed maize. Arda Seeds (Pvt) Ltd managing director Mr Amon Mwashaireni said they had already ventured into the seed production of sunflower which was a drought resistant crop.

“Sunflower is one of the most neglected seeds in the country with most seed houses shunning it probably because of the market. This year, the Minister, Dr Masuka encouraged us to venture into sunflower seed production,” he said.

“We have already planted 11 hectares of parent seed targeting to establish the crop in winter depending on the success. In 2023 we must be able to supply a significant amount of sunflower seed so that we cut importation of sunflower seed.”

“For sorghum, we are plating 500 hectares targeting two tonnes per hectare. At least we are expecting 1 000 tonnes which is enough to plant 100 000 hectares.”

The provincial Agritex officer Mrs Maud Chikumbirike said the province was targeting 290 000 hectares of maize this season but so far, only 101 140 hectares had been planted translating to 34 percent.

“We are targeting 36 000 hectares of sorghum and we have managed 17 132ha so far translating to 47, 5 percent,” she said.

“For pearl millet, the target is 6 000 and only 332 hectares have been planted translating to 5, 5 percent while the finger millet the target is 2 000 of which only 6,8 hectares have been planted which is 0,3 percent.”

For soya beans 6 407, 9 hectares had been planted out of the 16 000 hectares, while for ground nuts, the target was 41 000 hectares with only 8 744ha being planted.

Only 20,4 hectares of sugar beans had been planted out of the 11 700ha target.

The cotton target was 25 000 ha and 16 978 hectares had been planted so far while the tobacco target was 40 000ha with 29 940ha having been planted.

“For sesame, 120ha was planted out of the target of 8 000 ha. We are expecting the hectares to increase on small grains because farmers are still planting,” said Mrs Chikumbirike.

AllAfrica

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