Another record winter wheat harvest on horizon

21 May, 2023 - 00:05 0 Views
Another record winter wheat harvest on horizon

The Sunday Mail

Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE is likely to post another record winter wheat harvest this year after increasing the planting target to 90 000 hectares from the initial 85 000ha, with officials happy about progress on the preparations.

The targeted 90 000 hectares for the winter wheat crop is expected to produce over 400 000 tonnes of the grain, compared to 375 000t achieved last year, which was a record since wheat growing started in Zimbabwe in 1966.

Zimbabwe requires 360 000t of wheat annually for domestic consumption, meaning this year’s expected harvest will result in a significant surplus.

The increase in hectarage is informed by the Government’s interventions aimed at growing output, in line with the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Agriculture Recovery Plan and the National Development Strategy 1.

The efforts to increase production are also being taken in view of the potential negative impact of supply chain disruptions in traditional source markets following Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos, in an interview, said the planting season was progressing well, while the ministry was confident of meeting the targeted hectarage this season.

“The wheat planting season is going very well and we have actually increased our winter wheat planting target to 90 000 hectares this season and we have extended our last planting day to May 31, 2023,” he said.

The initial target of 85 000ha of wheat was expected to yield at least 408 000t, enough to assure the country of self-security.

To that end, State power utility ZESA said it had ring-fenced 120 megawatts for winter wheat farmers to irrigate their crop.

“The power situation, especially now that wheat farmers have been ring-fenced and prioritised, has improved considerably and this is a sign of a good season,” Mr Haritatos said.

Commercial Farmers Union chief executive officer Mr Sam Miller expressed gratitude for the proposal, saying it would give farmers fewer headaches.

“As farmers, we are pleased to hear such an initiative as it gives us the assurance that we will not lose our crops due to lack of power. We are raring to go, with all inputs almost in place, and targeting another record harvest,” he said.

“Power has been a perennial problem for us and hearing such news is a delight. Farmers have been told to get into clusters such that they are given uninterrupted power supply and, as we speak, that is being done, in consultation with the power supplier.”

Financiers such as AFC Land Bank and CBZ are finalising loans to farmers, while other private sector players are also involved in raising money for the entire winter cropping season.

Deputy Minister Haritatos added: “Inputs are still being distributed, but all the inputs needed for planting have already been distributed.”

He believes this season will surpass the record set last year.

“These are all signs of what we believe will be another record-setting wheat season”.

The Government has also set a pre-planting producer price of US$520 per tonne of wheat, which will be partly paid in foreign currency and Zimbabwe dollars at the prevailing interbank rate.

The Government has also liberalised the marketing of grain, with all contractors that include the Food Crop Contractors Association and the CBZ allowed to buy back contracted crops.

CBZ Agro-Yield is targeting to have 20 000ha under contracted crop at a projected average yield of 4,8 tonnes/ha, with the estimated production set at 96 000t.

The AFC Land Bank is targeting 15 000ha, with a projected yield of 4,8 t/ha, and the estimated production is 72 000t.

The private sector and self-financed scheme will put 25 0000ha under winter wheat, which is projected to yield 4,8t/ha and a combined output of 120 000t, while the Presidential scheme is seeking to have 20 000ha under the wheat crop for a 96 000t harvest.

Self-financed farmers will also sell their produce in the open market or to the Grain Marketing Board.

“We have liberalised the market, moving away from total Government control because, as the Government, we are encouraging private player participation,” Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mr Clemence Chiduwa said earlier this month.

“That is why, in this scenario, we have come up with this arrangement of allowing private contractors to purchase grain,” he stated.

The proposed marketing and pricing system has been described as consistent with achieving both food and nutrition security and macro-economic stability.

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