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Regional weather predictions spell good news for 2019/20 crop production

ACCORDING to reports released by the Ministry of Agriculture on July 2019, Tanzania has registered production of 16,408,309 tonnes of food crops in the 2018/19 crop season, which is a 3 per cent decline compared to the previous season’s production.

The figure comes from nine crops, namely; maize, sorghum, millet, rice, wheat, pulses, cassava, banana and potatoes.

Maize, which constitutes the largest share of all the food crops, produced 5,817,000 metric tonnes down from 6,273,000 metric tonnes, which is a 7.3 per cent decline.

The same decrease has been observed to millets (2.2 per cent), rice (9.5 per cent) and cassava (1.8 per cent).

The Ministry report attributes this backpedaling as being due to prolonged dry spells in some of the highly producing regions which caused crop failure to permanent wilting.

However, by zooming in on pulses, production reveals an increase of 1,880,000 tonnes from previous year of 1,823,000 tonnes, which is a 3.1 per cent impressive increment.

This is a significant deviation from the general crop production performance. The reason behind this is a better performance of rains in the leading pulses producing regions like Kagera, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Manyara.

Equally appealing, other crops like sorghum, millet, wheat, banana and potatoes have registered increased production at a rate of 8.8 per cent, 2.2 per cent, 10.5 per cent, 0.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

A close observation can suggest the reason behind their deviation is normal and above normal rainfall performance in the previous year.

Carryover Stocks The report keeps on delineating on the carryover stocks by stating the amount owned by public, private and those retained by the farmers.

It is stated that in the eve of a new marketing year, a total of 505,274 tonnes was carried over into 2019/20 marketing year, of which 68,075.72 tonnes and 5,616.24 tonnes (16 per cent) was held in National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and Cereals and other Produce Board (CPB) premises respectively, while 93,760 tonnes (19 per cent) was held by private stockiest and 337,840 tonnes (67 per cent) was estimated as farm retention.

Ministry of Agriculture’s preliminary forecast survey for 2019/20 season According to the report, forecast survey found that there will be reduction in the food available for consumption in the year 2019/20 compared to previous year.

The fall is due to unpredictable weather, pests outbreaks such as fall armyworms, quleaquelea, rodents, fungal diseases, insufficient extension services and reduced use of agriculture inputs especially fertilizer.

Normally, Tanzania’s farming system is guided by two types of rains which determine planting and harvesting seasons of crops.

The rains are seasonal, which usually starts from November to February the next year; and ‘Masika’ (long rains), which starts from February to May.

Since most of the food produced in the country comes from small holder farmers whose use of irrigation schemes are insignificant, a concept of climate change affects them a great deal.

Southern Africa Regional Climate Forum From the 29th to 30th of August 2019, in Luanda, Angola, the 23rd Southern Africa Regional Climate Forum convened a meeting with Southern African Development Community (SADC) meteorologists, together making a number of 150 meteorologists, with Tanzania representation.

According to the final communique shared to the media, member countries of the SADC will have higher humidity levels due to more rainfall in comparison with corresponding period last year.

It further announced that normal and above average rainfall is expected for most of the region, with exception of the southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the northern parts of Angola and Mozambique which will have normal precipitation.

Additionally, the member states will have 15 days to adjust the data produced by the forum, taking into account their characteristics.

More so, for the months of January, February and March, there will be, in almost every region, normal and above normal rainfall, except west of Angola (Namibe province) and Namibia, southern South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Madagascar, which will have normal rainfall with below trend. What do we do then?

First and foremost, this report needs to reconcile with the regional one so that the public is not clogged in thick mad.

Secondly, this encouraging information needs to be properly communicated to the producers and all the people in the value chain, so that the glut caused by ‘overproduction’ is not turned in to a curse.

Thirdly, the government must be true to its promise of keeping the borders open for regional and global trade, in the name of protecting food security.

Because it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that food availability is always secure when there is enough production and a farmer is incentivised to produce more when the market is guaranteed.

Lastly, efforts to implement ASDPII must be intensified, especially on irrigation area.

The world has now moved past depending on the generosity of climate to dictate its future.

After having had too many drinks in ...

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Author: ZIRACK ANDREW

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