COMING hot on the heels of the recent heavy downpours that reignited farmers’ hopes for a decent season, the current dry spell has triggered fresh concerns among farmers, as they fear their crops may succumb to the subsequent high temperatures.
Knowledge Transfer Africa chief executive officer Dr Charles Dhewa yesterday observed that the dry spell was causing anxiety among farmers especially those whose crops were currently doing well, as they try to imagine how the crops will fare under the scorching sun.
Dr Dhewa added that one of the significant effects of the ongoing heat wave was the detrimental impact it has already shown on tomatoes and leafy vegetables, which make the bulk of the fresh produce that is sold daily at Mbare Musika and other such markets across the country. He said the vegetables were rapidly losing their freshness leaving them less desirable to consumers because of the prevailing heat.
Leafy vegetables, he said, were now being sold in the mornings when they would not have taken much impact from the heat. The development is essentially reducing the shelf life of the produce and has effectively disrupted operations at the market affecting both farmers and consumers in the process.
“To mitigate the effect of the heat, sellers have started to adjust their marketing habits and are now selling the leafy vegetables primarily in the morning when temperatures are relatively lower. This approach is meant to ensure that consumers have access to fresher produce while mitigating the negative impact of the heat on the vegetables’ quality,” he said.
The combination of the ongoing dry spell and the heat wave has created a challenging situation for farmers while the uncertainty surrounding the prevailing weather conditions and the impact on crop yields has also become a significant cause for concern.
Farmers are eagerly awaiting the return of the rains in line with predictions by the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) that the wet spell would return at the start of February. The rains are expected to provide the much-needed relief and respite for their crops. Some stakeholders in the agriculture industry have, however, remained hopeful that the weather patterns would shift, allowing for improved conditions for meaningful farming processes.
Dr Dhewa also emphasised the need to improve infrastructure at the markets to allow to store their produce properly and preserve its shelf life and curtail post-harvest losses that have in most cases chewed into their potential revenue.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development recently urged farmers to adopt good agronomic practices and crop management to enable their crops to fare better even under difficult conditions like the current two-week dry spell.