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Surprise power availability boosts wheat output

LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

Zimbabwe’s wheat production is expected to improve this winter season due to uninterrupted power supplies in a major boost for cereal output.

The expected increased output comes despite farmers having scaled down this year’s hectarage due to dwindling water levels in various water sources.

This saw 41,000 hectares of wheat planted in the 2020 winter wheat season from a planned 65,000 hectares.

The National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC) is monitoring wheat production around the country.

NWCFC is a technical committee which was formed in 2018 to lead wheat contract farming up to 2021. NWCF vice- chairperson Graeme Murdoch of Paper Hole Investments told Business Times on Tuesday this week that the committee will begin crop assessment in the next few weeks to see the possible wheat output amid indications of an improved output.

“We expect an improvement in wheat output this season due to a surprising uninterrupted power supply so far this season.

This is expected to push up volumes on areas where wheat was planted,” Murdoch said.

Experts say the improved power supply will help this year’s wheat production after farmers suffered seasons of serious power cuts especially last year.

Economic analysts said the wheat output should increase to save the country from reaching 2008 levels as the economy is already grappling with foreign currency shortages, hunger, inflation and the coronavirus pandemic.

The estimated 41,000 hectarage is a jump from last year’s hectarage of 29,000 hectares.

Private sector managed to plant between 7,000 and 10,000 hectares due to dwindling water levels in various water sources caused by massive drought in the past summer cropping season.

Last year, the country attained an output of less than 80,000 tonnes. In 2018, wheat output stood at 160,000 metric tonnes and since then the national output has been sliding further down.

According to wheat surveys in the country, an outstanding farmer gets five tonnes per hectare with national average wheat output at two tonnes per hectare.

From 41,000 hectares, Zimbabwe’s best yield can reach over 200,000 tonnes which is half of the national requirements.

The country is expected to use over US$350m on wheat importation. Government which was upbeat about planting 60,000 hectares only managed around 30,000 hectares.

Zimbabwe’s cereal demand has increased to 450,000t from 400,000t in 2015 due to change of lifestyles and increased foodstuff production.

However, even if the country manages to reach national demand the country will still import wheat due to weather conditions.

The country will import wheat and blend with local wheat to make bread.

Local flour is mainly used for biscuits manufacturing.

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