Friday 20 August 2021


ABOUT 130 000 tonnes of maize worth $49,4 million, which was being sun-dried in preparation for shelling, was reduced to ashes after a vicious veld fire swept across Lone Kop Farm in Rusape last Saturday.

It is believed that the fire emanated from settlements close to the 1 200-hectare property. Seven hectares of near maturing wheat, 500ha of pastures and an assortment of animal species were burnt.

Both the maize and wheat were grown under the CBZ Agro-Yield programme, commonly known as Command Agriculture.

Lone Kop Farm belongs to former Cabinet minister, Cde Didymus Mutasa, but is being leased to Turnip Holdings, which is fronted by Mr Leon Notier and Mr Robert House.

The consortium also planted 10ha of medicinal hemp after being granted a permit to cultivate, process and sell the crop in line with Statutory Instrument 128/20 Agricultural Marketing Authority (Industrial Hemp), in September 2020.

In an interview on Wednesday, the farm manager, Mr Revison Macheso said the fire started from settlements adjacent the farm.

He said the culprits disappeared soon after. Mr Macheso said the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was handling the matter.

The veteran agronomist said efforts to douse the fire were fruitless, and the entire farm community ended up watching haplessly as the raging fire wreaked havoc.

Mr Macheso said they planted a total of 487 hectares of maize, of which 357ha had been harvested with the yield ranging between 10 and 11 tonnes per hectare, depending on the seed maize used.

During a virtual field day held in April, Mr House said they planted SC659 and SC727 seed varieties.

“The destroyed crop was insured, and contracted to the CBZ Agro-Yield. We have notified them of the loss, and all have been here to make their own independent assessments. We have also engaged CID to conduct investigations to establish who started the inferno.

“We had 30 hectares of maize which was still in the field that was also destroyed. The other crop had been removed from 100ha — the 60ha of maize was removed in June to pave way for wheat planting. It had 18 percent moisture content, so we were sun-drying it. We had recently removed another crop from the field following delays in securing a combine harvester. We were worried about these veld fires, so we heaped it there anticipating to have it shelled. So both the maize in the field and the one that was being sun-dried was reduced to ashes,” explained Mr Macheso.

“The fire was so vicious, and all our efforts to douse it were in vain. No injuries were reported. We ended up watching as we could not rescue the situation.

“The fire started at the edge of the field adjacent the villages. There were people who were seen running in different direction after starting the fire. Our security team could not identify the culprits. It was such a huge loss and the culprits must be arrested and dealt with decisively,” said Mr Macheso.

District Agritex agronomist, Mr Joseph Chipere urged farmers to prepare standard fire-guards that are seven metres wide. He also added his voice to growing calls for Government to impose deterrent penalties to deal with the issue of veld fires. Mr Chipere said delivery of grain to GMB was sluggish due to high moisture content.

GMB only takes grain with 13 percent moisture content. “The first thing a farmer is required to do is to construct a standard fire-guard to protect the farm against veld fires, but most are not complying with this requirement. Second, people who cause veld fires must be arrested, and the penalty must be deterrent.

“The other issue is that grain delivery is slow as most farmers are having their grain turned back by GMB due to high moisture content. The maize is in the open for sun-drying,” said Mr Chipere. Manica Post




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