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September 26, 2011

Mozambique farming hampered by outdated techniques

 For Mozambique to become more competitive, it is fundamental that the country should invest in improving the efficiency of its agricultural production, according to the National Director of Agricultural Extension, Momed Vala.

Vala noted that, on average, South African farmers produce six to seven tonnes of hybrid maize per hectare, but the figure does not exceed four tonnes per hectare in Mozambique.

"All the South African production is on the basis of hybrid varieties", he added. "In Mozambique, when hybrids are used, production is four tonnes a hectare - but with the normal varieties we only produce 1.8 tonnes per hectare."

The know-how already exists, Vala stressed, and "what we must do now is to increase step by step our efficiency in production. Only then can we be more competitive".

"Nowadays any South African production uses irrigation", he continued, "but unfortunately in Mozambique 97 to 98 per cent of agricultural producers are dependent on the rains and only a tiny number benefit from irrigation

Nonetheless, there are signs of growth - thus last year "we built, or rehabilitated, 1,728 hectares of irrigation schemes."

But irrigation in Mozambique remains very expensive. Rehabilitating just one hectare of an irrigation scheme costs between 3,000 and 7,000 US dollars. Vala said that in the Tewe irrigation project, in the central province of Zambezia, rehabilitating one hectare costs 5,000 collars. This compares with 600 to 700 dollars a hectare in Vietnam or India.

Turning to other crops, Vala said that in South Africa the production of hybrid varieties of tomatoes is 35-40 tonnes a hectare, while the figure in Mozambique is 30-35 tonnes. The commercial dynamic in South African agriculture drove farmers to look continually for better seeds, fertilizers and other inputs.

Vala believed that something of the sort was beginning to happen in Mozambique, particularly in Chokwe, in the Limpopo Valley, where rice producers say they know where they can obtain relatively cheap fertilizer.

"I told them to go ahead", said Vala, "because we are preparing a rice campaign that we want to be one of the strongest ever. We must change the paradigm for this crop".

He added that recent investment in agricultural research has led to the release of 64 improved varieties of various crops, including rice, maize, potato and sweet potato.

As for the 2011-2012 agricultural campaign that will begin in October, Vala said he expected a growth in production is 9.1 per cent, particularly in food crops. Growth in the 2010-2011 campaign was 6.7 per cent, which Vala attributed to genuine growth in productivity, and not merely to an increase in the area under cultivation.

The final figure for the 2011 maize harvest is expected to reach 2.246 million tonnes, well in excess of Mozambique's own consumption requirements, put at 1.917 million tonnes.

Growth in rice production has been sharp, and the harvest is put at 522,000 tonnes. This is still short of the country's rice consumption which stands at over 580,000 tonnes.


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