Agriculture will drive Zimbabwe’s economy which will be in its third year of growth next year. The economy is expected to grow by 9.3 percent up from this year’s estimated 8.1 percent. The economy grew by 5.7 percent last year.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti said agriculture had grown by an estimated 34 percent this year driven by tobacco which grew by 110 percent, sugar by 35 percent, maize by 34 percent and cotton by 23 percent.
The phenomenal growth of tobacco which was the key foreign exchange earner before the land reform programme has baffled critics of the country’s programme.
Production which had slumped to 58.6 million kgs in 2008/2009 but shot up to 123.5 million kgs beating estimates that had been put at 93 million. Some 65 000 hectares were put under tobacco. Next year 90 000 hectares will be under tobacco and the estimated yield is 150 million kgs. Tobacco reached its peak in 2000 when 236 million kgs were produced.
Maize also did well but production per hectare was down. Though production improved from 1.2 million tonnes in 2009 to 1.3 million tonnes, yields fell from 0.8 tonnes to 0.7 tonnes per hectare but this was attributed to late rains and drought in the southern provinces.
There was disaster in the wheat crop. The government had estimated that farmers would put 45 000 hectares under wheat this season but they only put 12 000 hectares. Zimbabwe’s wheat is irrigated so most farmers opted out because of erratic power supplies.
Cotton production is doing well. Production was estimated to have risen from 211 000 tonnes in 2009 to an estimated 260 000 tonnes this year. It is expected to increase to 300 000 tonnes next year.
Sugar is also expected to do well with production increasing from 259 000 tonnes last year to 350 000 tonnes this year. Production could reach 450 000 tonnes next year. The previous high is 600 000 tonnes.
The country still has a long way to go to meet demand for dairy milk. Production is reported to have increased only marginally from 40 million litres last year to 45 million this year, less than half the national demand of 96 million litres.