The Sunday Mail
Livingstone Marufu —
LOCAL millers want more private companies to invest in contract farming, especially of wheat, to promote the milling industry and prevent cheap wheat imports. Contract farming has effectively increased this year’s winter wheat hectarage to 50 000 hectares from 3 000ha last year.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, along with companies like Southern Region Trading Company, National Foods and PHI Commodities have invested more than US$3 million in agricultural schemes, particularly in Mashonaland West.
GMAZ chair Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said apart from the US$600 000 they invested in Makonde district, there was an additional US$2,3 million scheme for the Lion’s Den area of Mashonaland West.
“We want to go to every area that has water bodies and rich soils and invest in contract farming. It’s not millers’ duty only to partake in these programmes but every company’s obligation to do so.
“We, as millers, together with our partners, have discussed with the Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister (Dr) Douglas Mombeshora to help us identify more land that we can invest in.
“We would want access to all the arable land with water bodies so that we can utilise that land. “We are prepared to support every wheat farmer through a five-year contract including the development of infrastructure, roads and irrigation equipment,” said Mr Musarara.
Government, which is driving the Command Agriculture Programme, has found willing allies in its initiatives. Grain processors have made a commitment to buy 800 000 tonnes of maize from the envisaged two million tonnes expected from Command Agriculture. Millers are also planning to invest in prison, Arda and Army farms.
The country consumes an estimated one million loaves of bread everyday, which translates to about 28 000 tonnes of flour per month, most of which is imported. Increasing wheat output will reduce Zimbabwe’s import bill.
According to GMAZ, Bakers Inn and Proton bakeries buy wheat from local farmers while another major baker prefers imports.
“We would like the authorities to engage Lobels and encourage them to buy wheat locally as their bread is bought by Zimbabweans, not Zambians and South Africans. Though every business wants profit, there’s need to safeguard our national interests,” said Mr Musarara.