2022: Year of highest wheat yield, self-sufficiency
Elita Chikwati-Features Editor
The year 2022 will go down in history as the farming season Zimbabwe recorded its highest wheat harvest since production of the cereal started in 1966, thanks to the Government’s Agriculture Recovery Plan aimed at boosting food security and nutrition in line with Vision 2030.
This year saw the country recording surplus after harvesting 375 000 tonnes of wheat from the 80 883 hectares planted by farmers during the winter cropping season.
About 360 000 tonnes of wheat are required for national consumption annually.
Following the success of the wheat production last season, the value chain has the potential to increase its production reaching national sufficiency and export the surplus.
The Russia and Ukraine Conflict has revealed the need for a nation to rely on locally-produced food.
These two countries used to be the major wheat producers globally and the conflict meant disruption of food supplies.
Thus it is important that Zimbabwe was able to produce enough wheat for national consumption.
The value chain should continue to work together in a co-ordinated manner to ensure the linkages are strengthened by ensuring that the wheat value chain is highly-dependent on our locally-produced crop.
Over the years, Zimbabwe has been a wheat importer as local production could not meet the annual requirement of 360 000 tonnes.
Wheat production had been affected by several challenges that include interruption of power supply, high costs of production and unavailability of funding as most financial institutions were not willing to fund the crop due to high risks associated with the cereal.
Government has been targeting increases in wheat production to meet the national requirement in line with the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Agriculture Recovery Plan and the National Development Strategy 1 and in pursuit of the vision of becoming an empowered and prosperous upper middle income society by 2030.
Thus a number of strategies have been put in place to boost production and wheat has not been left out.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has been working closely with important stakeholders to ensure all things were in place for wheat production.
The private sector on the other hand is also playing a role in boosting production through contract farming.
These stakeholders include the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa which also worked hard to ensure farmers had supply of water for irrigation the ZETDC also came up with different strategies to ensure farmers had interrupted power supply during the winter cropping season.
This saw farmers being put in clusters so they could be prioritised on power supply.
Inputs manufacturers also played their role is ensuring there was enough seed on the market while the Ministry ensured farmers received the required advisory service to produce wheat viably.
Farmers were trained on important agronomic practices to increase yields.
The private sector was also tasked by Government to contribute at least 40 percent of the production of their raw material requirements in line with Government policy and the target was met this year.
As with all crops under the Second Republic a number of public and private financing arrangements were put in place so farmers could access their needed inputs in good time.
Wheat was planted under the Presidential Inputs Scheme, National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme also known as Command Agriculture/CBZ Agro-Yield and private sector schemes.
Agritex extension teams were in full force going to wheat growing areas training farmers on planting, calibration of planting machines, fertiliser application and disease control among other important agronomic practices.
Efforts were also made to avail combine harvesters so that the wheat could not be damaged by early rains.
Some challenges were, however, experienced in some parts of the country.
Veld fires and early rains affected the crop although no significant damage was done. The country remained self-sufficient.
Farmers also complained of challenges in transportation of the crop to the Grain Marketing Board Marketing.
Concerns were also raised over the delays in payments after farmers had delivered their wheat to the GMB.
The attainment of soft wheat self-sufficiency is premised on Government’s agricultural transformation anchored on active private and public sector participation.
According to Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement food self-sufficiency, import substitution, increased exports, increased value addition and beneficiation, increased employment and improved livelihoods can be better guaranteed by a vibrant water sector, anchored on robust, transparent, fair and accountable management of the sector.
Irrigation has been identified as a key component in wheat production.
In Zimbabwe wheat is grown in winter under irrigation.
According to the Ministry of Lands, irrigation will continue to have a prominent role in propelling agriculture in the context of Vision 2030. In this regard, efficient water use, through efficient irrigation systems, will be advocated.
The country will continue to register surplus if all stakeholders play their part; if adequate funding is availed, inputs distributed early and farmers trained on important practices.
Farmers should also be equipped so they always plant within the planting window to prevent destruction of the crop by early rains. Harvesting equipment should also be available and affordable.
The announcement of pre-planting producer prices by Government also help motivate farmers to produce the crop.
A number of farmers have welcomed government’s move to peg producer prices in foreign currency. According to the farmers inputs are pegged in foreign currency and therefore they will not be able to break even if they get their payments wholly in RTGS.
The area under wheat production can also be improved.
The Ministry has also encouraged tobacco farmers to also consider producing wheat during the winter cropping season.
Tobacco growers could utilise their land for the irrigated tobacco for wheat production to ensure the country continue attaining self-sufficiency and building a strategic grain reserve for the cereal.
All farmers with land and have access to water for irrigation can also produce wheat even on a small scale so the nation become self-sufficient.
The tobacco industry has a sizeable hectarage that they put to irrigated tobacco about 20 000 hectares.
All this land could be utilised to grow wheat. The tobacco farmers’ 20 000 hectares can be used to produce a 100 000 tonnes of wheat.