Zimbabwe surpasses wheat target Speaking during a press conference on irrigation and winter wheat farming in Harare yesterday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the country is on course to achieving over 600 000 tonnes adding that farmers should now concentrate on good agronomic practices. 

Precious Manomano-Herald Reporter

WHEAT farmers have planted 121 769 hectares, 34 percent above last season, ensuring an even greater surplus over normal consumption and allowing more wheat processed foods to be manufactured and sold.

The area planted even exceeds the ambitious target of 120 000ha set as the El Nino-induced drought started hitting the country, with the pure irrigated wheat crop seen as an essential element in having enough food. 

The expected harvest of more than 600 000 tonnes will not just meet the ordinary requirements of 360 000 tonnes, but will allow a far greater range of wheat products to be manufactured and eaten. The expected surplus of 240 000 tonnes will contribute towards the Strategic Grain Reserve, which currently stands at about 400 000 tonnes, to ensure food security. Zimbabwe managed to meet local requirements for the first time in 2022, and last year produced its first ever significant surplus.

The Government has adopted a policy of wheat surpluses and greater use of wheat-based food following a realisation that Zimbabwe has a competitive and comparative advantage on growing wheat.

Speaking during a press conference on irrigation and winter wheat farming in Harare yesterday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the country is on course to achieving over 600 000 tonnes adding that farmers should now concentrate on good agronomic practices. 

“We have planted 121 769 ha which is 34 percent above last year so we are well on course to achieving the targeted 600 000 tonnes. We have adequate power for the farmers and we have a dedicated command that will report power outages. We have a water command centre which was established and the migratory pests focusing on quelea are ready so we have mobilised sufficient resources. About 21 technicians are ready and waiting for the 10 drones that we have now deployed into provinces,” he said.

 “We have five vehicle mounted sprayers and additional motorised sprayers have access to aircraft to ensure that there will be adequate quelea control so that every grain is used for human consumption,” he said.

Minister Masuka indicated that wheat can be sold, swapped or can be consumed adding that no one will starve.

He said focus should be on ensuring that farmers implemented good agronomic practices and ensuring best management practices.

 Government will hold farmer field schools throughout the wheat growing belts to ensure the best yields and it has also capacitated the extension system so that they can adequately reach farmers.

Minister Masuka has also praised ARDA for planting slightly above its own target of 60 000ha, about half the total.

It will produce at least 300 000 tonnes which will find its way into the Grain Marketing Board so as to assure the nation’s food security.

The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Professor Obert Jiri, applauded extension workers and farmers for working hard adding that good agronomic practices should be implemented to ensure that the target is met.

“Farmers are expected to approach their agricultural extension workers for the wheat growing support and agronomic practices,” he said.

Zimbabwe is optimistic that this year’s winter wheat production will help to boost food security following various interventions that were implemented by Government and private sector engagement to ensure a record harvest.

The wheat crop is supported through private contractors, Government’s National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme, (NEAPS) Presidential wheat support and self-financed growers.

For the past two seasons, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia were the two countries which were wheat self-sufficient in Africa.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president, Dr Shadreck Makombe, said the commitment shown by farmers is greatly appreciated adding that they should maintain good agronomic practice so that they produce five tonnes per ha in order to meet a target of 60 000 tonnes.

“A holistic approach is needed to ensure that the target is met. Failure to do so will hamper productivity levels. Fire guards should be established. Getting advice from extension workers is also key. Farmers should be on the lookout for quelea birds,” he said.

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