|Farmers shun wheat for other crops|
|Friday, 16 March 2012 00:00|
Winter wheat production is expected to decline further from last season as it emerged many farmers no longer have confidence in the crop. Last season about 35 000 to 40 000 tonnes were expected although yields were down to 22 000 tonnes.
This season the situation is expected to worsen as many farmers are shunning wheat for other crops that have high returns.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union director Mr Paul Zakariya said it was unfortunate that some wheat farmers have not been paid for the crop they delivered last season to the Grain Marketing Board.
“GMB has indicated that farmers who had not been paid for the last season may soon get their money and this has an impact on the planning and preparedness for the winter cropping season.
“At the moment wheat farmers should be concentrating on land preparations but nothing is taking place,” he said.
Mr Zakariya said the situation was made worse by the absence of funding for wheat production.
He said a number of banks and private companies were no longer willing to fund wheat production because of the high risk associated with it.
Banks do not have viable loans for farming making it worse for resource poor farmers who have not been paid by the GMB.
High production costs have also discouraged farmers from producing the crop.
A farmer requires US$3 120 to produce a hectare of wheat. Most local farmers are averaging 2,5 tonnes per hectare.
For a farmer to make meaningful yields from the crop, Mr Zakariya said yields should be more five tonnes.
Many local farmers cannot raise yields due to inputs costs, which they say are prohibitive.
Government has tried to assist wheat farmers every year with inputs but these have always been distributed late.
Fertilisers might be in short supply following the power disconnection at Sable Chemicals.
Zesa Holdings has also disconnected some farmers over non-payment of electricity bills.
Wheat is grown under irrigation and this depends on the availability of electricity.
Mr Zakariya said Zesa and farmers should come up with mechanisms that ensure farmers pay the bills as they produce.
“Sometimes it does not make sense that Zesa disconnects power to a farmer who is curing tobacco. Where will he get the money to pay the bills if he cannot cure the crop,” he said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Donald Khumalo said last season a number of farmers had produced wheat under contract farming as they did not have enough resources.
Under the contract system, farmers get seed, fertilisers, and chemicals and in some cases technical advise.
The farmer will then have to sell to the contractor.
“A number of farmers got reaped off by these contractors and are not willing to produce under contract this season.
“I do not want to rule out the possibility of wheat programmes but at the moment there is nothing. There is no way farmers can prepare without resources,” Mr Khumalo said.