Horticultural farmers hit by frost

Capitalk Reporter |  1 year ago | local

Several horticultural farmers across the country are counting losses running into thousands of dollars after frosty conditions affected their crops following a cold spell at the weekend.

Temperatures fell significantly in some areas which caused damage to tomatoes, peas, butternut and potatoes.

The adverse weather conditions caught farmers unaware as they were expecting bumper harvest riding on the good rainfall the country got in the just ended season.

Meteorological Services Department (MSD) chief forecaster, Mr John Ngoma confirmed that there was frost in some parts of the country.

“In the past week, due to the dry overnight conditions coupled with the calm winds, ground frost occurred in areas such as Masvingo, Gweru, Mukandi, Chivhu, Lupane, Rusape, Nyanga, Bulawayo, Matopos, Henderson, Hwedza, Harare, Chitungwiza, Selous and Marondera.

“Notably, the bulk had slight ground frost between two degrees Celsius and zero degrees Celsius. Only Nyanga and Henderson had moderate ground frost,” said Mr Ngoma.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said they had received numerous reports of ground frost that had affected several crops across the country.

He said they were working with farmers to establish the losses incurred.

“We encourage our farmers to insure their crops to mitigate losses that might occur due to natural phenomena such as frost.

“We know it might be a challenge for smallholder farmers, but medium to large scale farmers need to insure their crops. That is the best way to preserve their crops,” said Mr Zakariya.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said his organisation was worried.

“There is need for greater collaboration with the Meteorological Services Department so that we get updates to guide us accordingly.

“Another challenge is that as farmers, we are not in the habit of insuring our crops which we need to seriously consider,” said Dr Makombe.

He said they would continue to engage the MSD after Bulawayo, Juliasdale, Troutbeck, Rusape, Beatrice, Norton, Mutoko, Chimaninani, Chitungwiza, Mazowe and peri-urban farms lost produce.

Most crops on higher ground however, survived.

One farmer who owns a plot along Airport Road, Mr Langton Mwale said: “I lost my entire one hectare of tomato crop to frost. All along I have been irrigating my crop every day to prevent the frost, but it was all in vain.

“This is a big loss considering that the tomatoes were near ripening stage.”

Mr Mwale said since he started farming in 2012, he had not experienced such a severe frost, which damaged his entire crop on Saturday night.

He said frost also left a trail of destruction at a flower producing farm in Richmond area.

Horticulture is Zimbabwe’s fifth-largest agricultural export earner, contributing 6,5 percent to the agricultural GDP.

Horticultural crops are mainly produced near major urban centres and along roads connected to urban settlements.