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Annual wheat imports top 185 000 tonnes

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Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Zimbabwe imports an average 185 000 tonnes of wheat every year to complement national production, a senior Government official has said.

Zimbabwe requires 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira said wheat production had been declining over the past years, with the country producing 61 261 tonnes last season.

He said farmers had been reducing the hectarage put under wheat as it had become expensive to produce the crop due to power shortages and the high cost of production.

“The country has been importing an average of 185 000 tonnes of wheat since 2009 against a national requirement of 400 000 tonnes,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.

Wheat production for the 2015 winter season stood at 61 261 tonnes while 40 820 tonnes have been delivered to the GMB since April 2015.

He said an average area of 16 342 hectares had been planted to wheat over the past seven years.

Agriculture experts suggest that wheat has always been a complex crop for the country, with the situation worsening in 2008 due to economic hardships caused by sanctions imposed by the West.

Agriculture economist Mr Midway Bhunu said water and electricity had always been the major causes of the drop in wheat production.

“Other countries have alternative sources of energy,” he said. “We should consider looking at renewable sources of energy to reduce costs.

“Government should concentrate on research and development of wheat varieties that can give high yields under the country’s climatic conditions.”

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers’ Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo said Government should prioritise funding the local farmer to boost production than relying on imports for food security.

“Why should we support farmers in other countries instead of paying our own farmers? she said.

“We are keeping South African companies in business when ours remain dormant and docile.”

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