Bumper wheat harvest expected Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister, Davis Marapira (second from right) is accompanied by Matabeleland North Provincial Agronomist Zenzele Ndlovu (right) during a tour of Mary Allen farm to assess winter wheat in Bubi District yesterday. Far left is the farm’s general manager, Mr Duncan Middleton.

Peter Matika-Bulawayo Bureau

THE Government is optimistic of a bumper wheat harvest this year and has commended farmers in Matabeleland provinces for early land preparation, with planting now in full swing.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister, Davis Marapira, who has visited Matabeleland South and Midlands provinces, was in Bubi District in Matabeleland North Province yesterday, where he toured Mary Allen Farm to assess the state of preparedness.

Deputy Minister Marapira was impressed with the progress at the farm, one of the most productive in the region, which coincidentally completed planting its winter crop yesterday.

In Zimbabwe, winter wheat is traditionally planted in May before temperatures drop in June as cold conditions affect germination.

About 600 000 tonnes of wheat are expected to be harvested from about 120 000ha, against a national consumption of 360 000 tonnes per annum.

Last year, Zimbabwe managed a record winter wheat yield of 467 905 tonnes after 90 000ha were put under the crop compared to 375 000 tonnes harvested in 2022.

“I am very happy with what is happening here at Mary Ellen Farm, they started planting on 18 April and ended the planting of wheat today,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.

He said the farm is expecting a yield of about eight to 10 tonnes per hectare.

“They planted a total of 270 hectares and looking at our situation in the country, they maximised all they have for the season and I am happy to inform you that they have enough water to irrigate the 270 hectares,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.

He said he was also impressed with the level of precision farming being practiced at the farm.

“They are using highly mechanised techniques, which the President is always talking about. This is a farm where modernisation is at its highest. I urge all our extension workers, district Agritex officers and provincial officers to come and share notes to increase our level of knowledge as far as wheat production is concerned,” said the Deputy Minister.

He said Mary Ellen Farm is set to produce no less than 2 000 tonnes of wheat.

“As a nation we use 320 000 tonnes of wheat per year and last year we produced 476 000 tonnes. Mary Ellen Farm therefore contributes quite a substantial amount, especially here in Matabeleland,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.

He said wheat was the major winter crop but there were few farmers growing winter maize and other such crops.

“There are a few farmers in hot areas who are growing winter maize or barley,” said Deputy Minister Marapira.

He said apart from winter wheat, maize and barley, farmers are also being urged to grow potatoes.

“This will mitigate hunger as young people enjoy eating potatoes.”

Zimbabwe is one of the countries in the region hardest hit by the El Nino-induced drought and President Mnangagwa has since declared this year’s drought a state of disaster.

The country is now pinning its hopes on harvest from irrigation schemes and the winter wheat. Government and private sector players have pumped in significant resources to ensure successful winter wheat production.

The target is to plant 120 000 hectares this winter, which is expected to give the country 600 000 tonnes of wheat.

Deputy Minister Marapira said due to the effects of El Nino, farmers used a lot of water during the summer cropping, which has resulted in the decline of water levels especially in Matabeleland South province.

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