By Melisa Chatikobo STAFF WRITER chatikobom@dailiynews.co.zw

THE government says it will this agricultural season introduce mechanised conservation agriculture for commercial farmers.

In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, acting director of Agriculture Engineering and Mechanisation in the Agriculture ministry, Martin Munyati, said commercial farmers would be expected to use environmentally-friendly farm equipment that will not disturb the land ecosystem.

“The ministry of Agriculture was directed by its permanent secretary John Bhasera before the start of the 2021/22 summer cropping season that the next batch of planters to be purchased should be zero tillage direct seed planters,” Munyati said.

“Most commercial farmers have accepted the directive because of the reduction of input costs, equipment and are using the method. For now they are purchasing on their own as we do not have them in our facilities.

“This method is climate smart as one plant directly on unploughed soil and later does weed management through herbicides. It reduces the number of operations as you are just using a planter instead.”

Currently Zimbabwe has a deficit of more than 31 400 units of machinery. The country has 10 000 units of tractors and combine harvesters and 4 000 units need repairs.

Arable land is 4,3 million hectares; one million is under animal power, half a million under motorised draught power. The remaining 2.8 million hectares requires mechanisation equipment.

According to Munyati, they have engaged local companies to manufacture mechanisation equipment. He said the second batch of equipment under the Belarus and John Deere mechanisation programme would be distributed in the beginning of the year.

“We are promoting local manufacturing of equipment rather than importing complimentary kits. The challenge is that they have to import raw materials which are now expensive. The local product becomes more expensive than the imported equipment. For example, a disc harrow costing US$4 450 is now tagged at US$9 000. Apart from the contest of accessing foreign currency, the steel prices have increased internationally,”Munyati said.

“The second phase of the Belarus and John Deere mechanisation programme has already started as half of the US$51 million has been paid. Delivery of equipment will start at the end of February and will later be distributed to farmers through banks,”Munyati said.