EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zesa anchors winter wheat success

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zesa anchors winter wheat success

???????????THE Command Agriculture Programme, which started last season with maize production, has now shifted to winter wheat, with hundreds of farmers having planted the crop.

Farmers who voluntarily took up winter wheat production were provided with all the inputs as was the case with maize production.

Upon harvesting, they will be expected to deliver an agreed tonnage to the Grain Marketing Board as repayment for the loan, advanced to them in the form of inputs, such as wheat seed, fertilisers, chemicals and tillage services.

Many farmers with irrigation infrastructure have in the past failed to grow wheat because of the lack of financial resources to buy the inputs, a gap that Government has bridged through Command Agriculture and specifically command winter wheat production.

We are happy that, unlike in the previous seasons, when farmers complained of erratic electricity supplies, this time around we have seen massive improvement in power supply. Where there has been load shedding, it has only been for a few hours and we must commend the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority for playing a big part in Command Agriculture.

Wheat is hugely dependent on water and the irrigation water is enabled by electricity. Without power supply, the wheat crop is doomed. A lot of water is required to germinate and grow wheat and it is thus critical to ensure power supply is not interrupted.

And without any doubt, Zesa has not been found wanting in that regard. We say to the authority, keep up the good work of supporting farmers in particular and Command Agriculture in general.

There are farmers with full irrigation who have in the past been reluctant to take up wheat production because of the problems associated with electricity supply. We want to urge them to consider growing wheat given the experience of this season where power supply has not given farmers a headache.

While the Government continues to make great strides in turning around agriculture, we are failing to locate the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) in all this. We remain convinced that Arda should be anchoring national food security given the vast tracts of land that it boasts across the country.

At one time Arda had 68 estates throughout the country and while we are not sure about the number today, we believe matters to do with food security are national security issues and so a parastatal of the magnitude of Arda should seriously be seized with the matter more than anything else.

There are reports that Arda now has a substantive general manager and we believe part of his/her immediate mandate is to make Arda regain its strategic position in food security matters. Whatever comes from individual farmers should always be a bonus as Arda should take the lead in ensuring national food self-sufficiency.

Our wheat production had plummeted to disappointing levels as farmers struggled to get funding. We hope that the sector is poised to rebound, thanks to Command Agriculture. We require at least 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually. Command winter wheat is targeted at producing 200 000 tonnes.

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