Analysis: FELIX TEMBO
"IT IS a dry spell caused by some low pressure over Mozambique and the Indian Ocean." These are the statements coming from our weather friends.
Whatever they choose to call it, we last had meaningful rains on or before the December 27.
In agriculture and dry land field crop production in particular, having over 30 days without rain or water to irrigate the crop is a drought. This is because many crops will have reached what is called a permanent wilting point. This implies that no matter how much water they will receive thereafter, they will not recover; they are dead! Many fields in Central, Southern and Eastern provinces are in this state.
Recently I shared with you an article in which I explained the advantages of using certain fungicides in crop production that have a combination of a stroby and triazole such as Opera. These are proven fungicides that go beyond disease control to help manage stress such as disease, less water and too much water. These products formulation is excellent and it has been proven even under field conditions. The past winter season, one commercial farmer had used these technologies in his wheat and the application of the second fungicide was done a bit early such that they had some powdery mildew towards the end of the season. The farmer was worried that it was going to compromise his yields. We assured him that as long as the disease was not getting to the flag leaf, it was going to be a successful crop. And true to our word, he had the highest average yields in his area; far much better than those that had used ‘perceived’ cheaper solutions with effective disease control. These are products powered by years of research with top-notch scientists in the world and have been coined to have AgCelence properties – meaning agricultural excellence. If you want to learn more about which of these products will help you manage this drought well, please get in touch, especially if your soya is yet to flower or your maize is about knee high.
Anyway, to me this is a drought and not a dry spell because when I looked at the forecast by the weather men, it is consistent that the same areas will continue to receive below-normal rainfall for most of the season. What is now important is that we need to manage our strategic food reserve. Again, I proposed in one article that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) should be allowed to have stock of 1.5 million metric tonnes (MT) of maize at any point to cover three years. Currently, I do not think FRA holds enough maize to see us to the harvest of 2019. If they managed to buy 500,000Mt last season, then we could have reduced that quite dramatically by now. What this implies is that we will be looking forward to importing maize from South Africa because it has better irrigation facilities, or we will look to Brazil and America, depending on how quick we move. I know that we have received or are receiving enough rains in the north, but it is a region which mainly grows cassava. There are other districts like Mbala, Kawambwa and Isoka that have of late been ‘popping’ their noses as far as maize production is concerned, but these will be overwhelmed by traders from Tanzania and Congo as has been the case in the past. If I was the one managing FRA, I would think of announcing the buying price as early as end of March and provide a reasonably good price of not less than K100 to entice farmers not to sell their crop while in the field. This phenomenon they are calling the dry spell has affected many countries in southern Africa, including Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Therefore, it calls for proactive management of strategic reserves for the country if we don’t want to see ourselves, who are the ‘large grain borers’ starving to death. Remember that food security starts with the way you grow your crops. Use proven technologies that will ensure you have crop harvest assurance. Don’t throw away food – that is money.
This author is an agribusiness practitioner. firstname.lastname@example.org