Command agriculture pays off for Zimbabwe; returns to maize selfsustainability

Zimbabwe will be self-sufficient in maize production for the first time in nearly a decade.

The country will also not have to import any maize in the 2017/’18 marketing year.
According to the recent grain and feed annual report issued by the USA’s Department of Agriculture, the country will have an estimated 2.2 million tons of maize for the 2017/’18 marketing year.

This is an increase of more than 300% from the previous years’ 512 000 tons, which is three times more than the 742 000 tons from the season before that.

The national average maize yield is estimated at roughly 1.2 t/ha, compared to the previous seasons’ less than 0.7 t/ha.


Zimbabwe has been a net importer of maize for the past 15 years and thanks to the good harvest season, the country won’t have to import maize in the 2017/2018 marketing year. Surplus maize in the 2017/’18 marketing year is unlikely to be exported and will be included in Zimbabwe’s strategic grain reserve.

Through the Grain Marketing Board, the government is offering US$390 per ton – the highest in the southern African region. This is compared to private grain traders who are offering lower prices of between US$280 and US$310 per ton.

Government has since defended high maize prices and used it as an incentive for farmers to grow more maize.
However, the Grain Marketing Board has serious liquidity constraints and limited capacity to buy large volumes of maize.

Maize Production

Despite the damage done by the fall armyworm, favourable weather conditions and a special import program for import substitution implemented by the Zimbabwean government, has also contributed to an increase in maize production. An estimated 1.9 million hectares were planted with maize, compared to the previous seasons 775 000 ha – an increase of 142%.

Command Agriculture

The government implemented the programme at the beginning of the 2017/’18 marketing season for import substitution. According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s First Crop and Livestock Assessment Report, a total of 168 666 ha were planted under the programme.

A total of 6 319 tons of seed, 10.1 million liters of fuel, 50 150 tons of basal fertiliser and 31 465 tons of top dressing fertiliser were distributed.

Presidential Input Scheme

The Zimbabwean government also distributed free inputs for maize production to 820 000 smallholder farmers. Each farmer received seed and fertilizer for 0.4 ha of maize. A total of 8, 839 tons of maize seed, 7 665 tons of basal fertilizer and 2.5 million tons of top dressing fertilizers were distributed.

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