Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Government has set a target of 25 000 hectares of wheat during the 2016 winter cropping season which is expected to produce 100 000 tonnes of the commodity. The programme requires $40 million.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on agriculture yesterday on the state of preparedness for the 2016 winter wheat season yesterday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made said the country must not depend on imports.
Dr Made said the fertiliser industry had adequate fertilisers for the winter cropping season.
“The inputs supply show sufficient fertilisers but a slight of shortage of seed depending on varieties,” he said.
Dr Made said there could be challenges with pests this season due to the drought, adding that the ministry had set aside a budget of $136 000 for the control of quelea birds.
“Control of quelea birds is very critical especially now when we have a drought. There has been a build up of quelea birds and we expect an increase going forward,” he said.
By May 11, farmers had already planted more than 2 000 hectares of the crop with the Agricultural Rural Development Authority having put a sizeable crop. The planting window is expected to stretch to the end of June.
Dr Made said the country had been experiencing a steady supply of electricity which was key in winter production.
“We have experienced a steady supply of electricity and hope this will continue in the winter season,” he said.
“Winter cropping clusters will be isolated from load shedding. We are negotiating a concessionary electricity rate of 55 percent for farmers and we are also working on the existing electricity debts to ensure farmers are able to produce the crop. We also would want to strengthen the stop order system to enable payment of bills.
“We will continue to negotiate for better electricity tariffs but as long as farmers are price takers there will be a problem,” he said.
Zimbabwe requires 400 000 tonnes of wheat every year.
Last year the Grain Marketing Board bought 46 000 tonnes of wheat and this season Government is expecting to double the intake.