Zambia has recorded only 2.4 million metric tonnes of maize for the 2017-2018 agricultural season, down from a bumper harvest of over 3.6 million tonnes produced last year.

And three major cash crops – sorghum, millet and wheat, among others – are all expected to decline during the 2018 crop marketing season.

According to the latest crop forecast survey released by Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo, Friday, Zambia is anticipated to record around 2,394,907 metric tonnes of maize in the 2017-2018 agricultural season, down from last year’s record bumper harvest of 3,606,549 tonnes, representing a 33.6 per cent decline.

This means that Zambia has failed to produce over three million metric tonnes of maize for the first time in three years, making this year’s harvest the lowest since the 2014-2015 season where the country produced 2,618,221 tonnes of maize.

Katambo announced that this year’s low maize yields were mainly triggered by low rainfall pattern recorded in certain parts of the country.

“The reduction in the total maize production and yields for the 2017-2018 season is largely due to the prolonged dry spells that were experienced between November, 2017, and January, 2018,” Katambo said.

“In addition, the reduction in maize production is due to a reduction in the area planted. The area under maize reduced by 15.3 per cent to 1,392,546 hectares this season from 1,644,741 hectares last season.”

He said of the total 2.4 million metric tonnes of maize output, small-scale farmers are expected to contribute around 2.3 million tonnes, while commercial producers will yield around 105,000 tonnes.

“Small and medium scale farmers are expected to contribute 2,290,076 metric tonnes to the total production, while large scale farmers are expected to produce 104,831 tonnes of maize,” Katambo added.

“The national food balance sheet for the 2018-2019 crop marketing season based on the crop forecast survey shows that the country has produced sufficient maize for both human consumption and industrial use. The country also has a maize carry-over stock amounting to 844,244 metric tonnes as at May 1, 2018.”

And preliminary estimates from the crop forecast survey reveal that sorghum, wheat and millet, among other cash crops, will record declined yields this year.

“Production of sorghum is forecast to decline by 24 per cent to 13,130 tonnes from 17,337 tonnes last season. The production of millet is also expected to reduce by less than one per cent to 32,278 tonnes from 32,566 metric tonnes last season. The projected reduction in the two crops is attributed to a decline in the area planted to the two crops,” narrated Katambo.

“The preliminary estimates indicate that the country will produce 114,462 tonnes of wheat from an estimated planted area of 21,709 hectares. These estimates indicate an anticipated reduction in production of wheat of 40.9 per cent from last year’s production of 193,713 metric tonnes.”

However, mixed beans, burley tobacco, groundnuts and cassava are all expected to record increased production.