Govt targets bigger wheat hectarage to counter drought Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka

Precious Manomano Herald Correspondent

Zesa and Zinwa have been ordered to ensure uninterrupted power and irrigation water supplies to farmers this winter, as Government moves to increase the area planted from 91 000ha last season to 120 000ha.

About 160MW will be needed.

This is seen as one of the most effective ways of increasing food stocks after drought hammered the summer grain crops.

In an interview last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, said the Government would accelerate irrigation development for more hectarage to be put under wheat this season.

He urged farmers to use all water bodies this season to scale up wheat production to 600 000 tonnes.

“This season, we want all water bodies to be fully used. We do not doubt that we can reach around 600 000 tonnes of wheat.

“This means we will be assured of enough grain this season. We have started importing maize but still we have some maize, wheat and traditional grains in our strategic grain reserve.

“We will be having plenty of wheat this season and we will sell the surplus,’’ he said.

Wheat stocks are currently at 244 705 tonnes, more than twice the 105 800 tonnes required till the next harvest in September.

The ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Professor Obert Jiri, said the nation was heading for another good winter wheat harvest.

“Our last harvest was a major highlight of the New Dispensation’s successes. The key issue is to make sure that ZINWA has made water available and GMB should make sure that farmers    are paid.

“We will encourage farmers to grow more wheat to mitigate the effects of the drought,’’ he said.

Financial institutions would support farmers to grow more wheat this season, with Manicaland province targeting 13 000ha, Mashonaland Central 28 000ha, Mashonaland West 34 000ha, Mashonaland East 20 000ha, Masvingo 5 000ha, Matabeleland North 2 500ha, Matabeleland South 5 500ha and Midlands 12 000ha.

CBZ Agro-Yield is targeting to contract farmers for 11 500ha, the AFC Land Bank 16 000ha and NMB 2 500ha

ARDA Estates will plant 45 000ha, Food Crop Contractors Association 25 000ha while individual A1 and communal farmers will plant 20 000ha.

The Agriculture and Rural Development Advisory Service (ARDAS) said the Government had mobilised combine harvesters and driers for quick harvesting of crops, stressing the need to procure and avail winter wheat inputs early while contracts would have to be signed sooner rather than later.

This year, wheat is supported through private contractors, the Government’s National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), the Presidential Wheat Support Scheme and self-financed growers.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president, Mrs Monica Chinamasa, said preparations for the crop should start now.

She said if farmers received finance on time, the country would be assured of another good wheat harvest.

“Water bodies and irrigation facilities are there. We are sure that farmers can make it again in wheat production if they get financial services.

“We can surpass last year’s harvest but we appeal to Government to ensure that farmers get their payments early so that operations are smooth,” she said.

Wheat production in Zimbabwe has increased significantly in recent years, with the country breaking production records in the last two years.

Zimbabwe is now wheat self-sufficient and is among Sub-Saharan Africa’s top producers together with Ethiopia, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zambia.

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