Did you know that rice farming can be practised in Zimbabwe? Traditionally indigenous brown rice has always been cultivated (on a minute scale) but overall, rice has not really been grown commercially in Zimbabwe. Some years back it used to be, for example, in 2011 it is reported that 304 hectares were under rice farming. Currently, Zimbabwe is only producing a paltry 1 tonne of rice annually. Rice is a major part of the Zimbabwean diet so its production is a good business venture. There is a great need for import substitution. Rice maturation can be anything between 95 days and 250 days, depending on the variety. In this article, I look at how you can start a rice farming business in Zimbabwe.
Typically rice is commonly grown in wetlands, which is why some people might feel like rice cannot be grown in Zimbabwe. Well, rice production in wetlands is not the only approach that can be used. There is also dry land rice farming which can be the best approach for many of you. This is also commonly known as summer rice. You would be glad to know that Seed Co has been working on 2 dryland rice varieties. Trials have already been done all over the continent. These have been certified to be suited to the Zimbabwean climate, weather and soils. So I would encourage you to take advantage of this development to start dry land rice farming. Those two dry land rice seed varieties are called SCOP02 and SCO04.
There is of course no shortage of suitable soil and water bodies in Zimbabwe. This means wetland rice farming can also be seriously explored. About 4 years there was chatter about a wetland rice farming project that had been slated for somewhere near Tokwe-Mukosi. I am not sure what eventually happened to it but the principle and logic behind it made sense. Ultimately it is about weighing the options; to either go for dry land or wetland rice farming.
You will need to have a considerable size of land for big yields. Rice yields per hectare vary greatly; they range from roughly 3 tonnes to as high as 12 tonnes. There is a need for a wide range of equipment, ranging from handheld to mechanized ones. Seeds need to be purchased, and you have to source things like organic matter e.g. manure. Fertilizers are also necessary – the basic nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You will need chemicals for things like weeds, pests, and diseases.
Substantial human resources will be needed due to the several processes involved. These start from land preparation to weed control, seed sowing, transplanting (where applicable), harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and so on. The number of hands can be reduced depending on your level of mechanization. The bottom line though is you will need several hands-on decks.
Considerable amounts of financial capital will be required. There are many material and human resource needs that lead to that. Especially if irrigation is involved, there will be extra costs. FAO indicates that it takes roughly US$360 to grow 1-hectare rice.
The majority of rice consumed in Zimbabwe is imported – well over 90 per cent. This is a clear indication that local production can be the perfect fit. Over US$80 million is spent on rice imports every year in Zimbabwe. Just last year alone – almost US$100 million went to rice imports. If we leverage on import substitution this means we can create a multimillion-dollar Zimbabwean rice industry. If rice farming is taken seriously in Zimbabwe it is projected that over 2 million tonnes can be produced every year. Even the export market is rife with opportunities. Every year it is said that as many as 100 million new people need to be fed. Rice production holds an important place in addressing food security issues.
The dry land rice farming approach thrives well with irrigation. Interested farmers would have to invest in irrigation which maximizes yield potential. Just so you know, of all the rice produced globally, about 75 per cent of it is through irrigation. Roughly 50 per cent of land under rice farming globally is irrigated. This is all to show you the efficacy of dry land rice farming using irrigation. To produce 1 kilogram of rice needs about 2500 litres of water.
Why not give rice farming a shot; it can pay off big time especially given how relatively new the area is in Zimbabwe. In Southern Africa, the most notable country in terms of rice production in Malawi. Thus you can draw some insights by looking at case studies from Malawi. The other great thing is that Seed Co is one behind the seeds I recommended. They are a reputable company with the capacity to provide guidance and support services.