Wheat farming milestone as Zim expects record 380 000 tonnes Dr John Basera

Precious Manomano and Theseus Shambare

FARMERS have started harvesting the winter wheat crop and for the first time since wheat growing started in 1966, Zimbabwe expects to reach self-sufficiency with a harvest of 380 000 tonnes.

Speaking at the Mazowe District Presidential Winter Wheat Field Day at Craigengower Farm on Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera said farmers are set to continue enjoying the foreign currency incentive payment upon delivering their produce to the Grain Marketing Board.

Zimbabwe requires about 360 000 tonnes of wheat at the present population and so the expected harvest of 380 000 tonnes should generate a carry over stock of about 20 000 tonnes.

Wheat, since it is grown entirely under irrigation in the winter, is not affected by rainfall patterns so long as the rainfall is adequate to fill up the dams which supply the irrigation.

Last season, farmers produced enough wheat to cover around nine months’ supply of domestic demand, a major improvement, with GMB receiving 156 144 tonnes from the farmers it had under contract, while more wheat was delivered to millers who had contracted it.

Said Dr Basera: “This year we are expecting 380 000 tonnes from 79 000 hectares of winter wheat, so this implies that there is a surplus this year. This is an amazing harvest. There was a great improvement in load shedding and uninterrupted water supply.

“In 2020, we managed to do 45 000 hectares, a rise from where we were in the past. In 2021, we did 66 000 hectares.”

Combine harvesters are ready and available and to keep up the mechanisation momentum for the next season, the Government plans to import more tractors.

Dr Basera said participation by the private sector in contract growing and mainstreaming was crucial in economic development and transformation of the industry.

All private businesses must contribute to local production, and this year the private sector managed to chip in with 29 000 hectares of wheat through joint ventures.

The CBZ Agro-Yield supported over 18 000 hectares of winter wheat whilst the Agriculture Finance Corporation supported 10 500 hectares.

Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) national chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said there has been a steady growth in wheat harvests, adding that if the private sector continued to work with the Government, widespread imports would be permanently eliminated.

“We are going to have the biggest yield this year since wheat started,” he said. “This year, they have not only empowered the farmers, but the consumers as well in product supply and price stability.

“The Ukraine-Russian conflict had caused serious problems for us. Partnerships with Government are crucial in terms of food sufficiency. From youths, we also see a rise in rice and wheat supply.”

Farmers present at the field day hailed the Presidential Winter Wheat Scheme, saying it supports them with inputs.

Mr Blasius Mandiriza of Craigengower Farm said he was expecting five tonnes a hectare.

“We are grateful for the inputs we got from the Presidential Scheme and next year, we hope to do better than this next year. We got enough inputs and all was done on time. We thank the President for this initiative,” he said.

Another farmer in the same area, Mr Benet Mudimu, said he expected to get a good harvest, and was sleeping outside to guard his water pipes from thieves.

“There are lot of thieves here so I sleep in the fields to guard the pipes,” he said. “This year is different from other years. I promise I can get 8 tonnes per hectare. I have 6ha and the crop is in good condition and very soon, I will be harvesting.”

Mrs Edwich Zaranyika of Hadura Farm in Ward 32 said wheat production was good in her area.

“The Pfumvudza wheat programme has helped us to get a better harvest,” she said. “We are only afraid of quelea birds which are so destructive. Our wheat is now ready for harvesting and this is a crucial stage for us.”

The Second Republic has been working hard to boost agricultural output and ensure food security, while also boosting incomes for farmers, hence the decision to continue paying a foreign currency incentive.

Wheat farmers receive 30 percent of their payments in foreign currency while 70 percent is in local currency at the prevailing official rate.

Dr Basera assured farmers that a better payment plan awaits them this year.

“I promise you, we will do our best to make sure that farmers smile all the way to their banks and the 30 percent foreign currency incentive you have been enjoying should remain,” he said.

“Today, I cannot tell you the actual price of wheat, but I am sure that from Tuesday, an official statement shall be issued after the Cabinet meeting.”

Other than the foreign currency incentive, Dr Basera said Government had crafted more measures to lure more farmers to take up wheat growing.

“As the President always says, he does not intend to leave anyone behind; there are many programmes that have been rolled out to boost production and it is up to a farmer to join a preferred scheme,” he said.

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