FARMERS have started harvesting winter wheat and for the first time since wheat cultivation began in 1966, Zimbabwe hopes to achieve self-sufficiency with a harvest of 380,000 tonnes.
Speaking at the Mazowe District Winter Wheat Field Presidential Day at Craigengower Farm on Friday, the Permanent Secretary for Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, the Dr. John Basera said farmers should continue to receive the incentive payment in foreign currency when delivering their produce to the Grain Marketing Board.
Zimbabwe needs around 360,000 tonnes of wheat at the current population and therefore the forecast harvest of 380,000 tonnes should generate a carryover stock of around 20,000 tonnes.
Wheat, since it is grown entirely under irrigation in winter, is unaffected by rainfall patterns as long as the rainfall is sufficient to fill the dams that feed 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 contract farmers, while more wheat was delivered to millers who l had contracted.
Dr Basera said: “This year we are expecting 380,000 tonnes from 79,000 hectares of winter wheat, which implies that there is a surplus this year. It’s an incredible harvest. There has been a great improvement in load shedding and uninterrupted water supply.
“In 2020, we managed to do 45,000 hectares, an increase from what we were in the past. In 2021, we did 66,000 hectares.
Combine harvesters are ready and available and to maintain the momentum of mechanization for the next season, the government plans to import more tractors.
Dr. Basera said private sector participation in the growth and integration of contracts was crucial for economic development and industry transformation.
All private companies must contribute to local production, and this year the private sector managed to contribute with 29,000 hectares of wheat through joint ventures.
CBZ Agro-Yield supported over 18,000 hectares of winter wheat while the Agriculture Finance Corporation supported 10,500 hectares.
National Chairman of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ), Mr Tafadzwa Musarara, said there had been steady growth in wheat harvests, adding that if the private sector continued to work with the government, imports generalized would be definitively eliminated.
“We’re going to have the biggest yield this year since wheat started,” he said. “This year, they have not only strengthened the powers of farmers, but also of consumers in terms of product supply and price stability.
“The Ukrainian-Russian conflict has caused us serious problems. Partnerships with the government are crucial in terms of food sufficiency. Among young people, we are also seeing an increase in the supply of rice and wheat.
Farmers at the field day hailed the presidential winter wheat program, saying it supported them with inputs.
Mr Blasius Mandiriza of Craigengower Farm said he expected five tonnes per hectare.
“We are grateful for the contributions we have received from the presidential program and next year we hope to do better than next year. We had enough entries and everything 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 protect his water pipes from thieves.
“There are a 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 tons per hectare. I have 6 ha and the harvest is in good condition and very soon I will harvest.
Mrs. Edwich Zaranyika from Hadura Farm in Ward 32 said wheat production was good in her area.
“The Pfumvudza wheat program helped us get a better harvest,” she said. “We are only afraid of the quelea birds which are so destructive. Our wheat is now ready to harvest and this is a crucial step for us.
The Second Republic worked hard to boost agricultural production and ensure food security, while increasing farmers’ incomes, hence the decision to continue paying an incentive in foreign currency.
Wheat producers receive 30 percent of their payments in foreign currency while 70 percent are in local currency at the prevailing official rate.
Dr. Basera assured farmers that a better payment plan awaits them this year.
“I promise you that we will do our best to get farmers to smile all the way to their banks and that the 30% foreign exchange incentive that you were getting is maintained,” he said.
“Today I cannot tell you the real price of wheat, but I am sure that from Tuesday an official statement will be issued after the Cabinet meeting.”
Apart from the foreign exchange incentive, Dr Basera said the government has devised more measures to induce more farmers to engage in wheat farming.
“As the president always says, he has no intention of leaving anyone behind; many programs have been put in place to boost production and it is up to a farmer to join a preferred program,” he said. – Herald