HARARE, March 10 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa says the country’s economy will grow by 3.7 percent from an initial projection of 1.7 percent, on the back of an improved agricultural season.
Zimbabwe revised its growth forecast twice last year. The latest forecast is in line with the World Bank’s outlook, which projects a 3.8 percent expansion this year.
The IMF, on the other hand, forecast a -2.5 percent contraction in Zimbabwe’s GDP, in its outlook published last October and urged major reforms.
Chinamasa is quoted by the state-controlled Herald newspaper saying the government anticipates a good harvest this season under its ambitious special maize production ‘command agriculture’ scheme and good rains.
“We have never spent as much money on agriculture as we have this season,” said Chinamasa in the report.
“I am pleased with the blessings of the Almighty, who gave us abundant rains, we are anticipating growth in agriculture. In fact we are revising growth in agricultural sector and in turn in overall growth. I anticipate after the revision our growth to be around 3.7 percent from 1.7 percent or so we had anticipated in the 2017 National budget.”
Chinamasa said Zimbabwe expects to harvest 3 million tonnes of maize this year. This would be the country’s biggest harvest on record, topping the 2.95 million tonnes produced in 1984.
The government does appear to be overstating the 2016/17 harvest.
Its ‘command agriculture’ programme, which initially sought to put 400,000 hectares under maize as the government targeted 2 million tonnes from the scheme alone, fell far below that, with only 153,000 hectares planted as of February 9, according to Agriculture Minister Joseph Made.
In total, Zimbabwe,which has averaged an 800kg/hectare yield in recent years, planted 1.2 million hectares under maize.
In his January 2017 monetary policy statement, central bank governor John Mangudya gave a much more tempered forecast in the 1.5 million tonne to 1.8 million tonne range.
The southern African country last year suffered a devastating drought which resulted in widespread crop failure and death of livestock, leaving more than a quarter of the population requiring food aid.
Zimbabwe’s economy largely rests on the fortunes of the farm sector, but problems stalking other key sectors such as mining and manufacturing, amid a liquidity crisis, have seen the economy flirting with recession since 2013.