Zimbabwe’s winter wheat production is likely to hit an all time low this year, falling from a peak of 325 000 metric tonnes in the 1990s to under 25 000 metric tonnes last year.
Farmers told last week told The Sunday Mail that cheap wheat imports, unreliable electricity supplies, poor funding and changing weather patterns hindered irrigated production.
The hectarage under wheat has dropped from a high of 60 000 hecatres to 3 000ha last year.
Zimbabwe needs about 450 000 metric tonnes of wheat for human and livestock annually and has traditionally imported the bulk of requirements.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said winter wheat production could soon be a thing of the past.
“We have heard our traditional challenges of poor funding, electricity cuts and of late the weather has resulted in people harvesting their summer crop late. This affects any meaningful preparations because we are supposed to plant wheat in May, but in most cases farmers will still be clearing their maize from the fields,” he said.
“There are also difficulties such as the high cost of water, electricity, seed and fertilisers which are high compared to the price offered by the government and private buyers.”
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said Zimbabwe will import to meet demand.
He said, “We are expecting to produce about 25 000 metric tonnes of wheat. The rest will be imported.
“The problem has been that banks are not funding farmers, and the cost of production is high.
“Also, seasons have changed. When a farmer harvests maize, winter will be upon us. Hence, it will be difficult to prepare for wheat production in time.”
A farmer needs about US$1 200 to produce six tonnes of irrigated wheat.
Government is offering an US$450 per tonne of wheat whilst private players are purchasing the cereal at about US$400 per tonne.
Imports land at around US$360 per tonne.
Mr Chabikwa said Government should have a national policy to promote wheat production.
“Government should intervene and subsidise winter wheat farming to encourage farmers to continue growing the crop,” said Mr Chabikwa.
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