The Sunday Mail
CBZ Bank has begun distributing inputs for this year’s winter wheat to ensure smooth preparations for the cropping season.
The financial institution — which is arguably the country’s biggest source of funding for agriculture — revealed this at the Climate Change Adaptation Conference hosted by Business Weekly, in partnership with the Financial Markets Indaba, in Harare on Friday.
The event was sponsored by Old Mutual.
Through its Agro-Yield division, CBZ financed 18 000 hectares of wheat last year.
The conference deliberated on issues around minimising the effects of climate change, which is causing food and nutrition insecurity, among other challenges.
During a panel discussion, CBZ Agro-Yield chief operating officer Mr Simbarashe Mhungu said inputs like seed and diesel were already being disbursed, while the distribution of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertiliser will begin soon.
The planting season starts in May.
“Looking at this year’s winter wheat season, we are going to start disbursing the inputs today (March 16, 2023). Our big farmers want things to be on the farm on time.
“So, your wheat seed will be there now, your fuel also, and in April and May, that is when we will start giving you your ammonium nitrate for use in a month or two later,” said Mr Mhungu.
“We should be able to finance and ensure that inputs go to them on time . . . So, we have to be sensitive to the very specific needs of farmers. As financiers, we have to be flexible enough to understand client’s specific needs for that specific area.”
Speaking at the same conference, Seed Co head of agronomy services Mrs Wendy Madzura said a number of strategies have been crafted to boost production.
“Last year, we were geared to be self-sufficient in terms of our wheat requirements and we achieved a yield target of above 370 000 tonnes against an annual requirement of 360 000 tonnes. This comes from initiatives that were driven by the Government to increase production level in a unit area,” she said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said the timeous distribution of inputs would help farmers to adequately prepare for the season.
“The earlier wheat is planted, the better; it will curb losses to do with early rains.
“Higher yields are realised when you plant early. Yes, traditionally, we talk of May as the starting period for planting wheat, but it has been discovered in many other areas that we can even do it at the beginning of April,” said Dr Makombe.
Zimbabwe put 80 883 hectares under wheat last year, up from 66 000 and 45 000 hectares in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Output, as a result, rose to a record 375 000 tonnes, 15 000 tonnes more than annual demand.
In 2021, farmers managed to produce wheat that was enough to cover nine months’ supply.
Success in the sector, which will result in huge cost savings through import substitution, has been attributed to collaborative efforts by the Government, the private sector and banks.
The Government is leveraging on the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy to make Zimbabwe a net exporter of the cereal.
Last year, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the Government targets to increase output to more than 400 000 tonnes.
According to the United Nations, African nations imported 44 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020.
The ongoing conflict between the two countries is, therefore, affecting supplies.