THE government has announced a 50 percent subsidy for local farmers on agricultural inputs for this year’s winter cropping season.
This was announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo this week. He appealed to the public to take advantage of the current rains to prepare for their winter cropping.
The winter cropping season starts mid-April to mid-June and the crops include wheat and peas.
The initiative comes on the back of unsatisfactory yields in production of summer cropping across the country as a result of factors including drought and climate change shocks.
As a result of these challenges, the ministry estimates that more than 60 percent of potential agricultural land was left fallow during the summer cropping season.
Although statistics are not yet available, the minister said if done successfully, winter cropping can compensate a significant deficit of the nation’s grain requirements considering the poor yields the 2018/19 summer cropping season.
Mr Molapo told the media this week that the ministry is subsidising farmers’ costs on inputs such as fertilisers, seeds (including wheat and peas), herbicides and pesticides among others.
The minister said the inputs, whose prices are being subsidised by half, have been available for sale at the ministry’s headquarters while some are being sold at the district offices around the country since Monday.
Fertilisers are however, being sold from the ministry’s storage facilities in Ha Foso, Butha-Buthe, Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek.
“All these inputs are available at 50 percent off their market prices,” Mr Molapo said.
The minister said it important for farmers to start preparing the soil now and take advantage of the rains that have been falling across the country.
“I want to appeal to all to make use of the current moisture in the soil owing to the recent rains to prepare the soil so that when sowing time arrives, we will be ready.”
“We have just passed the summer cropping season, where we faced a serious drought which has negatively affected production. Nevertheless, I want to thank those farmers who went ahead and planted under those conditions.”
He further appealed to the farmers to contact the ministry’s field officials and liaise with them on the areas that will be planted for purposes of harvesting their wheat crop when it is ready.
The Ministry has purchased two new combine harvesters bringing their number to 18 in preparation of optimum harvesting for the forthcoming winter wheat production.
“The government will continue to assist wheat farmers to harvest their crop this year by contributing 50 percent towards their costs.
“I encourage farmers to use block farming since that will simplify work and reduce costs since it is not economical for combine harvester to travel long distances between fields during harvesting,” Mr Molapo said.
The minister also said it was comparatively advantageous to cultivate crops in winter because it is cost effective as there is low occurrence of diseases, weeds and pests infestation due to the country’s cold weather conditions.