Business

Dry spell poses threat to crop yields – FAO

ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
THE Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) says the current dry spell, coupled with high input production costs the country is facing, could result in low yields this year.
FAO says the high input costs, particularly for fertiliser, is restraining access and pushing up production costs for farmers.
The organisation ias however hopeful that Government’s commitment to implement the Farmer Input Support Programme targeting one million farmers, with about one-quarter accessing subsidised inputs through an electronic-voucher scheme, will help ease the way of doing business especially  for smallholder farmers.
According to a statement posted on the organisation website recently, “The planting of cereal crops for 2015/16 farming season is ongoing under generally dry conditions following poorly-distributed and below-average rains since the start of the cropping season in October last year.
“Slow vegetation growth has been observed in several areas of the country, including the main producing provinces, Central and Southern.
“By contrast, wetter conditions benefited the establishment of the early-planted crops in the two other large producing Northern and Eastern Provinces.”
“Weather forecasts influenced by the current El Niño episode point to a higher probability of below-normal rains until March 2016 across southern portions of the country.”
FAO further says despite the countr                                                                                                                     y experiencing some hip- ups in the rainfall pattern, a continuation of favourable rains is expected in the north-eastern areas.
The organisation says farmers have, however, continued to plant their cereal crops with the hope of better yields in the 2015/16 farming season.

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