The first-round crop estimates released by the Ministry of Agriculture has projected a possible rise in output of most crops this season, attracting mixed reactions from agriculture experts and commentators.
Figures we have seen from the ministry show that, maize production will increase by 17.5 percent to 4,447,494 metric tonnes (mt) from 3,785,712mt produced last season.
Rice production has been projected to increase by 3.2 percent to 147,114mt, pigeon peas output is set to rise by 3.5 percent to 417,926mt while groundnuts yield is expected to go up by 6.3 percent to 452,601mt.
However, cotton production has been projected to decline by 62.3 percent to 20.103mt from 53,349mt recorded during the third-round crop estimates.
In an interview last week, agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said the first-round estimates could not give a precise figure, especially in a year when the country has not experienced any disasters such as drought or floods.
He said the maize is still at tussling stage; as such, there is a long way to go to be certain of the harvest levels.
He, however said, with increase fertiliser use through the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), the outlook looks good.
“The third-round estimates are what will be closer to reality. However, these figures are helpful for planning purposes. These figures will give them an indication of the distribution of maize and on which markets to allocate more resources.
“As for the projected increase in legumes it could be that much of central and northern regions, where these are generally grown, did not experience dry spells as has been the case in the southern and eastern regions where cotton is grown,” Mvula said.
In a separate interview, Chief Executive Officer of Africa Institute for Corporate Citizenship Felix Lombe said the reduction in cotton production is very unfortunate but not surprising.
“Market dynamics last year worked to the disadvantage of many farmers as many of them could not sell on time and at a reasonable profit margin. We have seen a significant reduction in the number of farmers growing cotton and that explains the reduction although 20000mt is slightly lower than our internal estimation of 22000mt,” he said.