Zimbabwe farmers cry foul over power cuts

Mugabe20 August 2013, Harare – Wheat farmers in Zimbabwe have expressed concern over the increased load shedding by national power utility Zesa Holdings over the past two weeks which is threatening the expected harvest of about nearly 30 000 tonnes from about 4 500 hectares of wheat planted this season, a senior farmer organisation official has said.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union second vice president Mr Berean Mukwende said members of his organisation, especially those in Mashonaland West, East and Central provinces, are now worried that their crop will not give them any meaningful yield due to erratic power supplies.

“Our members have been calling us expressing concern over the sudden increase in load shedding which they say is now on a daily basis and this has affected their irrigation patterns which is very critical at this stage of the crop,” he said.

Mr Mukwende added that the early crop is now at the grain filling stage while the late crop is now at the booting stage and both stages require a lot of water and failure to get the required amount of water will be detrimental to the crop.

“This is a very critical stage for the crop because in August temperatures begin to rise while both the early and late crops are at stages that require the most water, massive power cuts can only be catalyst for poor yields as this affects farmers’ irrigation programmes,” added Mr Mukwende. He warned that the expected yield of around 5,5 tonnes per hectare might actually go down to as little as about 1 tonne per hectare if the situation did not improve as a matter of urgency.

Over the past week, Zesa has come under severe criticism from consumers who have been quick to link the increased load shedding to political sabotage as it comes just after the harmonised elections.

In a statement last week, Zesa Holdings dispelled the claims as untrue.

“Zesa Holdings is concerned with the extremely sad and unfortunate reports in the media suggesting that the current load shedding regime is deliberately being undertaken to sabotage the economy. This perception is sadly incorrect,” said Zesa.

Zesa added that during the election period they had requested and received additional electricity support from the Southern African Power Pool but after the elections, imports were subsequently reduced because these utilities needed to undertake maintenance that had been deferred.

They also said the situation is being worsened by depressed reduced imports due to plant maintenance at Mozambique’s Hydro Cahorra Bassa which was expected to be completed by August 15, thereafter supplies were expected to improve provided all the exercises have been dully completed as per plan.
Winter wheat production has over the years suffered from inadequate funding, late availability and disbursement of inputs and erratic power supplies that continue to hamper efforts to get a meaningful harvest.

– The Herald

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