Autumn, one of the four seasons between summer and winter, is a time of change when the days get shorter and the temperature drops and the land is dazzled by its green grace.
Plants also change some of their characteristics during this season. Although the transition months are short, local changes are visible and require cooperative work. The Ministry of Agriculture has also stated that it is working in collaboration with other institutions (especially the Ethiopian Agricultural Works Corporation and the Ethiopian National Meteorological Institute) to make this harvest season a success.
And the ministry is carrying out activities based on three strategic objectives this season. The first is to ensure food security at the family and national level. The second is to produce enough products that can be used in the foreign market in terms of type, quantity and quality and to earn foreign currency. The third is about substituting imported products and supplying them to agro-processing industries.
Regarding the activities of the 2023 harvest season, Meles Mekonen (PhD), State Minister for Agriculture and Horticulture Development Sector said that this season is widely anticipated and eagerly awaited in the agricultural sector. It is planned to get 573 million quintals of production. A lot of activities are being done to help the work. One is to coordinate plans with the States. Accordingly, many activities have been carried out, starting with the cultivation of more land.
The reasons for the increase in agricultural land are different. One is the possibility to put the land into operation that was not cultivated in the past due to the war in the northern region. For example, from the Tigray region, about one million hectares of land has been brought into operation. The other is cultivation of swampy areas that were not cultivated until now. The State Minister said that farmers who understood the benefits of repeated production, instead of waiting for the corn until it dries, sell the green corn and make the land suitable for other work.
Due to the increase in agricultural land, it is planned to cultivate 17.59 million hectares this season. So far, 15.8 million hectares have been covered with seeds. About half of this, which is more than 7.86 million hectares of land is cultivated in cluster.
According to Meles, cluster farming is very beneficial for the agricultural activity. One is to bring neighboring farmers and lands together for resource utilization; it allows for a better and coordinated operation for the use of agricultural machinery and other cares up to the harvesting of the product. It also provides an opportunity to streamline the extension service. He said that it will create a favorable environment for the increase in production.
As stated by the State Minister; attention is being paid to increase productivity during the harvest season and 13.4 million hectares of land is cultivated to get 400 million quintals of production. So far, 12.8 million hectares of land has been plowed and prepared for sowing. And the rest will be prepared for sowing seeds. Of this, 11.9 million hectares of land is covered with seeds.
“One of the crops that have been given special attention this season is teff. About 1.59 million hectares is planned to be cultivated and so far 1.4 million hectares has been covered with seeds. Similarly, we pay special attention to wheat. With this, it is planned to increase by 26% from 154.82 million quintals that was in the 2022 production season.”
Thirdly, rice production is being done with special attention. Meles further said that, special attention is paid to avoid foreign procurement in this regard. The country has many facilities and experiences for this. The production is increasing every year. Especially in Amhara, Oromia, Benishangul and Gambella regions, there is great potential that can be expanded in the future. Therefore, it is planned to cover 13 million hectares of land with rice this year alone.
According to the information gained so far, 990 thousand hectares of land has been covered with seeds. The fourth issue that has been given attention is soybean cultivation; a major resource for agro industries, especially oil industries. The State Minister pointed out that its protein content is highly demanded by the people and the demand for the foreign market as a country is increasing. Special attention has been given to it and it has been directed to be widely used. Accordingly, it is intended to cover 900 thousand hectares this year; 705 thousand hectares has been covered with seeds so far.
Meles elucidated that apart from crops, there are horticulture products that have received special attention this year. It is planned to produce on 556 thousand hectares of land only in the harvest season. So far, about 390 thousand hectares has been covered with seeds.
Of this, especially fruit crops are given special attention. Accordingly, fruit cluster farming has been started. Every year expansion work has been done to produce market-oriented fruit production. In particular, avocado production, which has been a recent experience, has been carried out on a large scale. This work has been done extensively in Amhara, Oromia, Sidama and Southern regions.
In Amhara and Oromia regions, there is an opportunity to identify species that can be provided to foreign market. About 163 million saplings have been prepared with special care for export. Out of this, 13 million specially inoculated seedlings have been planted. It will be expanding every year.
Meles said, “The government distributed fertilizer to the farmers at a low price by subsidizing 15 billion Birr last year, and 21 billion Birr this year.” There has been an opportunity to strengthen support by talking to private organizations. With this, OCP (Office Chérifien des Phosphates), a fertilizer manufacturing company, supported us with more than 500,000 quintals of fertilizer and we were able to deliver it to the farmers.”
The State Minister mentioned that while harvesting is underway, various activities have been carried out simultaneously to modernize the agriculture and to change the traditional method of cultivation that the farmers used. In this activity, 2.8 million hectares of land was planned to be plowed with tractors and 2.44 million hectares of land was plowed with tractors.
At the same time, various works have been done to make the farmers benefit from the cluster farming. In this way, 6.7 million hectares of land is planned to be developed in cluster, and 6.35 million hectares of land has been plowed and got ready. Out of this, 5.37 million hectares of land has been covered with seeds.
Meles mentioned that, apart from providing various trainings involving the experts down to the grassroots in pest control and exploration, they are doing the work of building capacity as much as possible by providing various materials. A lot of work has been done in the weather so far. The timing was favorable for the occurrence of the storm and there was a possibility that the situation would occur, so preparations were made. With this, defense work by chemical and human was done.
He said that despite the prevention work, the autumn and winter seasons were very wet which gave opportunity for the pests to spread and birds that consume crops are more likely to occur. Thus, through the Ministry of Agriculture, there will be regular monitoring and exploration. Identification work of their shelters is done by experts in a special way. Both traditional and modern prevention work is done based on plan.
Similarly, special arrangements have been made to prevent desert locusts. Therefore, harvesting the product on time by using the capacity available without any problems will be achieved. “As the Ministry of Agriculture, we will help by providing various harvest equipment,” he said.
“In terms of crop protection, the Ministry of Agriculture supplies the chemicals used for epidemic prevention and there is enough stock of chemicals for this purpose. It is the Ethiopian Agriculture Corporation and private organizations that supply herbicides locally or from abroad. The farmers themselves buy and use it. But we monitor whether there is enough chemical in type and quantity. If there is a shortage, the government will work to provide foreign currency,” he said.
THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD TUESDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 2023