WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The corn crop in Zimbabwe is forecast to soar more than 300% from the 2016-17 marketing year crop of 512,000 tonnes, increasing to approximately 2.2 million tonnes in 2017-18, according to a July 26 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA’s report, the increase is being fueled by favorable weather conditions and “Command Agriculture,” which is a special program for import substitution that has been implemented by the government of Zimbabwe. As a result of the increase in corn production, Zimbabwe is expected to be self-sufficient in corn production for the first time in more than a decade, and the country is not expected to have to import any corn during the 2017-18 marketing year, the USDA said.

“Zimbabwe experienced one of its wettest summer seasons in the last decade,” the USDA noted in its report. “Although the onset of the 2016-17 rainfall season (November to April) was variable across the country, the season’s total rainfall was above normal and well distributed and favorable for corn production in most areas.”

The USDA said that the good rainfall contributed to an increase in the area planted to corn as well, with an estimated 1.9 million hectares planted to corn in 2017-18, up 142% from 775,000 hectares planted in 2016-17.

Additionally, the “Command Agriculture” program, which is aimed at supporting irrigated and dry land farmers to produce two million tonnes of corn, has performed well since being implemented at the beginning of the 2017-18 market year, the USDA said.

“Similar to a contract arrangement, each farmer participating in the program received a full production input package, including seed, fertilizers, chemicals and fuel to plant a specified area under corn,” the USDA noted. “After harvesting the corn, the farmers have an obligation to deliver a specified corn tonnage to the Grain Marketing Board as repayment for the loan. Farmers responded favorably to the ‘Command Agriculture’ program and to the government’s guaranteed corn producer price of $390 per ton. According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s First Crop and Livestock Assessment Report (March 2017), a total of 168,666 hectares were planted under the program and 6,319 tons of seed, 10.1 million liters of fuel, 50,150 tons of basal fertilizers and 31,465 tons of top dressing fertilizers were distributed.”

Zimbabwe has been a net importer of corn for the past 15 years, according to the USDA, a trend is expected to come to a halt with the 2017-18 market year.

“Surplus corn in the 2017-18 MY is unlikely to be exported and will be included in Zimbabwe’s strategic grain reserve,” the USDA said.