MAPUTO– Farmers in Mozambique have lost 188,000 hectares of crops to pests and bad weather in the first quarter of this year, says Agriculture Minister Higino de Marrule.

Speaking at the opening of a meeting of his Ministry’s Co-ordinating Council here Thursday, he added that the area affected represented 1.2 per cent of the total area planned for production in the 2017/18 agricultural year.

The crop most affected was maize, with a loss of 116,000 hectares, much of it caused by infestation by the Fall armyworm. Excessive rainfall in northern and central Mozambique and irregular rains in the south also contributed to the losses.

Despite the losses, Marrule was confident that Mozambique would remain self-sufficient in maize, a staple food, for domestic consumption and for the milling industry.

He expected a harvest this year of 3.3 million tonnes of grain compared with 2.6 million tonnes in 2017, an increase of almost 27 per cent.

The production of beans and other pulses is expected to rise from 707,000 tonnes in 2017 to 816,000 tonnes this year, an increase of 15.7 per cent. The amount of root crops expected from this year’s harvest is 14.2 million tonnes, an increase of 11.8 per cent on the 2017 figure of 12.7 million tonnes.

As for cash crops, Marrule said the greatest increase is in cotton, with an estimated production of 80,000 tonnes, compared with 52,000 tonnes the previous year, a huge increase of 53 per cent.

For sugar cane, the projected increase is 45 per cent, rising from 2.9 million to 4.2 million tonnes. Marrule put this down to a 10 per cent increase in the area planted with cane, and the consolidation of private investments in this sub-sector.

For cashew nuts, however, there is a decline at only 126,000 tonnes, which is 85 per cent of the target figure, and eight per cent less than in the previous year. A total of 32,600 tonnes of cashews were exported raw, while the Mozambican processing industry absorbed the other 47,800 tonnes.

Marrule said the government was continuing to promote employment in the cashew industry. Currently cashew processing factories employ 15,200 workers, and the sector has the potential to continue generating income for households, he said.

As for livestock, the main increase was in chicken. The amount of chicken meat sold was 94,800 tonnes, an increase of 64 per cent on the previous year. Beef production rose by 19 per cent, from 2,600 to 3,100 tonnes.

The agricultural extension network had grown, Marrule said. This year 1,815 extensionists assisted 636,845 producers, or 12 per cent more than last year. Marrule promised that the government would hire more agriculture extension officers.