In Zimbabwe, power cuts continue to undermine productivity in the agricultural sector negatively affecting transplanting of the 2015/2016 tobacco crop, reports local media Financial Gazette.
The power cuts have been attributed to breakdowns and repairs at Hwange Power Station and the low water levels at Kariba Power Station.
ZESA Holdings, last week published a tight load shedding schedule that would see most parts of the country go without power between 4am and 10pm every day.
The generation report from ZESA indicate that Hwange is now generating 414MW, Kariba 500MW, Harare Power Station 30MW, Munyati 22MW and Bulawayo 18MW.
This means the country is generating 984MW against a daily demand of 2,000MW.
Power cuts affect agriculture
Power cuts of up to 16 hours per day are expected to affect agriculture by reducing the area planted and increasing production costs as farmers resort to generators to irrigate the crop.
The power cuts have not only affected the transplanting of the tobacco crop, but have also had adverse effects on the wheat crop that was ready for harvest.
Berean Mukwende vice president of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union explained: “This winter, for farmers who planted wheat, […] some of us managed to put a crop on the ground and the season was progressing well and load shedding had become a thing of the past […].
“[…] when the crop was almost ready for harvesting, power cuts started and farmers had no option but to watch as the quality and the quantity of the crop was affected because of inadequate water supply.”
The winter wheat crop in Zimbabwe has experienced numerous challenges, which has affected viability. These included intermittent power supplies, rising production costs and reluctance by financial institutions to fund production.
Irrigation impossible without electricity
Farmers have previously negotiated for dedicated lines, especially for wheat and for tobacco growing areas, arguing that inadequate power supply negatively affects the winter crop.
Despite having adequate water to irrigate two million hectares, without adequate power supply, it would be impossible to take advantage of the country’s full irrigation potential to boost productivity.
Agricultural economist, Peter Gambara, said farmers needed to be innovative when transplanting their tobacco crop to avoid losses.
Proposing alternative measures
Gambara said: “The continued load shedding will affect the transplanting of tobacco. Farmers will have to be innovative by making sure they have water carts and a small engine to pump water into the water carts. They then use that for transplanting purposes whereby they apply water to the planting hole.
“They would then hope that they get electricity soon after transplanting so that they can then switch on the irrigation pumps and do more comprehensive irrigation of the planted crop”, he concluded.
As tobacco contract sales continue after 129 days of marketing, 199 million kilogrammes of tobacco valued at $586 million (ZAR8.147 billion) had been sold at an average price of $2,95 (ZAR41) per kg.
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