Grace Mahora Herald Reporter
The bulk of the record wheat crop on 75 452 hectares is now at the vegetative stage and in good condition, so the prospects look bright that Zimbabwe will for the first time since it started growing wheat in the mid-1960s reach self-sufficiency.
A target of 75 000ha was set, but the farmers managed to get in an extra 1 percent, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has reported.
Last year, farmers planted 57 197 hectares of wheat under all the different programmes. This year most programmes met or surpassed their targets.
“The department is currently undertaking a monitoring exercise to establish the performance of the crop in terms of crop condition and to verify the planted area,” said the Ministry in its latest update. “Agriculture extension officers are currently collecting data of planted areas across all sectors using the open data kit to come up with a database for all the wheat farmers.”
Zimbabwe Women’s Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo yesterday said wheat was in good condition in most parts of the country.
“Our worry is on power cuts and faults,” she said. “If they persist, farmers will not be able to follow irrigation schedules. Some farmers rely on generators when there is no electricity, but this increases production costs.”
Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union vice president Mr Edward Dune said wheat production was progressing well, but complained of high input costs.
“This season has had a fair supply of power in terms of irrigation electricity, but not much mileage is being achieved in terms of new entrants as regards electricity and irrigation,” he said.
“There should also be modalities to promote wheat production among smallholder farmers and ensure it becomes a viable enterprise.”
Zimbabwe Integrated Commercial Farmers Union president, Mrs Mayiwepi Jiti, said farmers planted wheat from as early as mid April up to the first week of June after the extension of planting deadline.
“The extension period of planting wheat assisted on increased hectarage,” she said. ‘There were delays in planting in some areas as summer crops had not been harvested due to high moisture content. The late onset of the summer cropping season also affected the timing for wheat planting.
“Currently, the wheat crop is in good condition and we are getting electricity although we sometimes experience load shedding. Power supply has improved this season.
“Water for irrigation is enough to pull through until harvesting and most dams have enough water for the winter wheat, but farmers are facing challenges on vandalism of irrigation equipment as aluminium pipes and some nozzles on centre pivots are often stolen, disturbing irrigation cycles.”
Zimbabwe has always been a net importer for wheat, although growing winter wheat under 100 percent irrigation started in the mid 1960s.
Government has been encouraging farmers with irrigation facilities, including smallholders, to grow wheat so the country can be self-sufficient.
This is important this year since global supplies have been disrupted by the conflict in Ukraine, which affected imports.