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Zimbabwe farmers expect bumper maize harvest after good rains

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe is expecting a bumper maize harvest in the 2016/17 agricultural season after receiving good rains, agriculture minister Joseph Made said Thursday.

Although refusing to disclose estimated maize output until completion of the second crop assessment, the minister said the nation was expecting a good crop after farmers planted 1.2 million hectares of the staple maize, up from 173,000 hectares last season.

He said a government-sponsored maize command agriculture scheme was expected to produce grain enough to meet the 700,000-tonne requirement for the National Strategic Grain Reserve, which is currently holding 250,000 tonnes.

Zimbabwe produced one of its lowest maize output of 512,000 tonnes last year amid an El-Nino-induced drought that has left a quarter of the population in need of food aid.

The country requires at least 1.8 million tonnes of maize for both human and livestock consumption annually.

Addressing a parliamentary portfolio committee, Made said Zimbabwe had recorded significant increases in the hectarage put under major crops this season although a shortage of top dressing fertilizer.

The hectarage for tobacco, the main foreign currency earner for the country, stood at 107,000 hectares up from 95,000 last season, while cotton hectarage increased to 155,000 from 105,000 last year.

The minister said the current government grain storage capacity at 4 million tonnes was enough for the expected abundant harvest, though 61 million U.S. dollars was required to revamp some of the grain silos.

Zimbabwe’s economy is agriculture-based.


246 dead, thousands homeless as flood hits Zimbabwe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- At least 246 people died and over 2,000 others were left homeless as torrential rains continued to unleash flood in Zimbabwe, a cabinet minister said Thursday.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere appealed for assistance from the international community, development partners and the private sector to address the plight of the affected citizens.

The Zimbabwean government has declared the flooding, so far recorded in southern parts of the country, a state of disaster.

"It is apparent that extra-ordinary measures to alleviate the suffering of citizens of the country in communal, resettlement and urban areas have to be intensified," he was quoted as saying by state-run news agency.

Zimbabwe has received above-normal rain since the beginning of the 2016/2017 season that has resulted in more that 85 percent of the country’s dams spilling.

The rains are expected to continue until the end of March.

The minister said 2,579 homes, 74 schools and five health institutions had been damaged by floods.

Most of the deaths and destruction have been recorded in Matabeleland North and South provinces, Midlands and Masvingo provinces, he said.

Kasukuwere said shelter, food and nutrition, health facilities, education and road infrastructure were among the issues requiring urgent support while damage assessment was continuing.

He said the government had set up structures from national to district levels to deal with the disaster.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri said more than 12 million dollars was required to rehabilitate damaged dams and infrastructure for supply of clean water to the people.

"Over 100,000 people are without access to safe drinking water due to destruction of water infrastructure," she said.

Zimbabwe Harare to restore water supply after three-day cutoff

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- An electrical fault at Harare’s biggest water pump station has left most of the city without water for the past three days, with city officials promising that supplies would be restored Thursday.

The central business district and several suburbs to the northern and eastern suburbs and the heavy industrial area have been without water since Tuesday, but the city’s spokesperson Michael Chideme told Xinhua Thursday that the fault had been rectified and residents would start receiving water soon.

"They have just started pumping and water will be trickling into the central business district soon," he said.

Many residents had resorted to unprotected wells and streams for water despite a recent typhoid outbreak that has claimed one life in the high-density suburb of Mbare.

Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Airport hosts biggest aircraft to date

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Chinese-rehabilitated Victoria Falls International Airport on Wednesday welcomed its biggest wide-bodied aircraft to date when South African Airways (SAA) landed an Airbus A330-200 carrying 159 passengers from Johannesburg.

The aircraft, with a capacity of 222 passengers, landed to the traditional water cannon salute from fire tenders from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and left on the return trip with 186 passengers.

SAA country manager for Zimbabwe Winnie Muchanyuka told The Herald Business that there was a lot of potential on the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route and hoped that traffic would remain high to sustain use of the big aircraft.

"We still have an even bigger aircraft, an A340-600, which can still fly into Victoria Falls," she said.

Upgrading of the airport by China Jiangsu International to a passenger handling capacity of 2 million per year from the previous 500,000 began in 2013 and was financed through a 150 million-U.S.-dollar loan from China Export-Import Bank.

President Robert Mugabe commissioned the new-look airport in November 2016, but part of the infrastructure such as the international terminal, runway and control tower had already become operational by December 2015.

Expansion of the airport was done in two phases, with the first involving construction of the new terminal, a fire station, a control tower, a 4-km runway, roads, a car park and conversion of the existing 2.2-km runway into a taxi way.

The second phase involved renovation, upgrading and conversion of the old terminal building into a fully-fledged domestic terminal.

The government hopes that the upgrading and expansion of the airport will attract more international airlines and bring more tourists to Zimbabwe’s prime tourist destination and one of the seven natural wonders of the world—the Victoria Falls.

Ethiopian Airlines has already announced plans to start flying direct to Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa at the end of March 2017 while Kenya Airways will follow suit in May, flying direct from Nairobi.

President Robert Mugabe travels to Singapore for medical review

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe left for Singapore on Monday for a routine medical check-up, his spokesperson George Charamba has said.

Charamba was quoted by the state media Thursday as saying that the president was expected back in the country next Monday.

The visit came a few days after Mugabe celebrated his 93rd birthday on Feb. 21 and vowed that he would continue as leader of the country.

He has since been confirmed by his Zanu-PF party as its presidential candidate for the 2018 elections when he will be 94.

His party, however, is reportedly riddled with infighting by factions vying to succeed him, one reportedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and another by a group of young leaders known as G40.

Mugabe has routinely visited Singapore for medical check-ups, with officials saying he suffers from eye cataract although some speculate that he suffers from prostate cancer.


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