The long-term perspective

10 06 2009

My foreman was astounded that I was not that keen on a potentially massive order of cauliflower seedlings. I pointed out that if the said customer really went ahead with the order he would most certainly crash the market (assuming that the seedlings got to maturity). If I gave him advice to reduce the order to something more sensible he might remember that I’d given him good advice, tell his friends and come back for more regular business. My other customers growing the same crops would also appreciate me reigning him in and, though I would not go and tell them that I’d done so, they might well find out if I did not!

This “grab it now and worry about the future when it arrives” policy is all too familiar in Zimbabwe and presumably in the rest of Africa to a differing degree. Here its most insidious form is in the continuing land grabs which have largely contributed to the trashing of the economy and have left large swathes of once productive land derelict as the new “owners” discover that farming in southern Africa is a demanding occupation.

A couple of weeks ago I encountered one of the latter; a “politically connected” youngster who was looking at farming in the north of the country. He was astoundingly clueless and knew nothing of rotation, land conservation, soil sampling or even various types of tillage that once made Zimbabwe a net exporter of food. He had no idea of the whereabouts of any potential markets or crop timing to meet market demands or continuity of supply. I suggested that he go and do some market research and then I would be in  a position to offer advice. I don’t expect to see him back and I did not ask the name of the farm which he was intending to crop. How he came to be on it was obvious.

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One response

12 06 2009
Big Blister

That all makes a stable economy even harder to imagine!

Re. growing maize. My understanding is that its growing season is determined by heat units or growing degree days. It will grow between 50F and 86F, above which it shuts down. It will continue to grow on warm nights, which is why it does well in Iowa and Kansas where it’s humid and warm at night. Corn doesn’t do as well here in the Pacific Northwest as we have cool nights and little mid-season rain in dryland conditions. I’m not sure where most of Zimbabwe fits in that continuum.

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