Mega private sector kitty for wheat

Livingstone Marufu
Private sector companies intend to plough US$140 million into this year’s wheat crop, with most winter farmers expected to start land preparations this week.

Sakunda, National Foods, Northern Farming Company, Stay Well Company and CBZ Bank have committed to supporting cultivation of winter wheat. The companies will collectively support production on more than 80 000 hectares.

Government is targeting output of 350 000 tonnes against annual national requirements of 400 000 tonnes, and Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said the target could be met on 70 000ha producing 5 tonnes/ha.

He told The Sunday Mail Business, “… we commend the private sector for the support that they are giving us. We require a total of US$140 million to plant 70 000 hectares … but, as we speak, we have secured some of the seed, money, diesel and tilled land to kick start the season.

“We have planned to start planting before the end of April, but we may start earlier as there is so much land which was supposed to be used for maize production which can be utilised for winter wheat production.

“Sakunda is funding around 65 000 hectares of wheat, another 5 000 hectares will be funded by National Foods, which is a major wheat consumer. Northern Farming Company will fund 5 000 ha. Stay Well Company and other private players will help to fill up in all lacking areas.”

Top dressing and basal fertilisers, including 70 000 tonnes of lime, have been secured for winter wheat; while CBZ has budgeted US$10 million for lending at interest rates of between 10 and 12 percent.

Experts say if Zimbabwe ups production to more than 200 000 tonnes, it will cut the import bill by US$70 million. On average, the country spends US$100 million yearly on flour imports.

Government’s deliberate thrust of private-public partnerships has improved agricultural financing.

The State buys wheat at US$500 per tonne, while private buyers offer between US$360 to US$380 per tonne. About US$1 500 is needed to produce one hectare of wheat in winter, which is the best production season for the grain in Zimbabwe.

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