Pandamatenga Farmers Anticipate 95% Loss Of Harvest This Year!!

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Pandamatenga farmers are bracing for an estimated 90% to 95% loss of harvest for the current 2023/24 ploughing season due to the El Nino induced drought that has led to insufficient moisture to support crops.

According to the data collected this season by the Department of Crops in Pandamatenga, a total of 27,983 hectares were planted out of the total of 45,000 hectares of commercial lands (farms with >500ha), accounting for 62% of all commercial fields. As such, farmers were unable to plant on the remaining 38% of lands because the soil lacked sufficient moisture to support planting.

This was revealed by Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association CEO, Lilian Scheepers in an interview with this publication. Scheepers said that this season is dismal as farmers aim to harvest 5% to 10% of the total sorghum produced in a typical season while sunflowers, cowpeas, mung beans, chickpeas, millet, and soya beans will also have significantly reduced yields. Scheepers said that in overall, farmers estimate about 90% to 95% loss this year.

“Without a doubt, the biggest challenge has been the drought. It’s been the worst ever. When we chat with farmers who have lived in Pandamatenga since the mid-1980s, they say they have never seen the fields in this condition, the drought is a natural calamity this season,” she said.

According to Scheepers the basket of cereals and pulses planted by the commercial farmers in Pandamatenga is quite the same every year for sorghum, sunflower, cowpeas, mung beans, chickpeas, sugar beans, soya beans, wheat, millet, maize, and fodder, but  looking at the quantities harvested, this year will present a very sad result.

However, Scheepers is of the view that streamlined communication and collaboration between farmers and ministries of Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Trade and Industry and Finance must be improved and coordinated to find lasting solutions.

“The business of farming needs to be seen on the ground and it is a multi-disciplinary exercise, as it involves a complex chain that involves constant information exchange, approval of permits, financing, market opportunities, prices and many other aspects,” she said.

Meanwhile the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently released a statement in which it revealed that cereal production in Southern Africa has taken a sharp turn for the worse since last February.

It states that the foreseen shortfall in production, especially for maize, is expected to intensify households’ food insecurity, push up domestic prices and spur a surge in import needs across the sub region.

According to a new assessment from FAO’S Global Information and Early Warning System, white maize accounts for almost 20% of calories produced in the region.

The disappointing forecast comes after “widespread and substantial rainfall deficits in February, exacerbated by record high temperatures, a particularly damaging combination for crops,” the report said, noting that there are scant hopes of a recovery before the harvest period commences in May.

FAO has warned that acute food security in Southern Africa, estimated at 16 million in the first three months of 2024 could deteriorate in late 2024. According to FAO, food prices already rising at annual rates above 10 percent are likely to rise further and based on current projections, South Africa and Zambia, typically maize exporters, will not be unable to cover supply shortfall, and Zambia has started importing maize to meet the shortfall.

FAO Global Information and Early Warning Economist Jonathan Pound said that this combination of reduced harvests and rising food prices is particularly harmful to agricultural households and restoration of production, as farm incomes are set to be squeezed while more resources will be needed to purchase food.

According to FAO the observed pattern is typical of the El Nino weather phenomenon in the region, current forecasts however point a high likelihood of a transition to a La Nina phase later in the year, with more beneficial precipitation patterns.

“That makes it “imperative” to scale up resilience-bolstering measure enabling farmers to prepare adequately for the next agricultural season starting in September,” FAO said.

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