Agriculture

Zim misses wheat target

LIVINGSTONE MARUFU


Zimbabwe has planted 41 000 hectares of wheat in the 2020 winter season from a planned 65 000 hectares of winter cereal due to dwindling water levels in dams and rivers.


The development comes at a time when the country is already facing serious food shortages due to El Nino induced drought that has ravaged most parts of Africa.


Experts warn the economy will reach 2008 levels if the declining output is coupled with underlying challenges that include foreign currency shortages, hunger, rampant inflation, crippling power outages and the coronavirus effects.


With these developments, bread shortages will be a permanent feature in Zimbabwe.


The National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC) has not managed to perform satisfactorily to reach its target of above 150 000 tonnes in its 3-year target. NWCFC is a technical committee which was formed in 2018 to lead winter wheat contract farming for the next three years.


NWCFC vice-chairperson Graeme Murdoch of Paper Hole Investment told Business Times that the El Nino-induced droughts have affected the growing of wheat in Zimbabwe.


“The statistics are yet to be finalised but roughly Zimbabwe is believed to have planted around 41 000 ha of winter wheat this season,” Murdoch said.


“As private sector we have planted 7 000 ha from targeted 10 000 ha due to fast dwindling water levels in various water sources. This is mainly due to a massive drought we have had in the past summer cropping season.”


Last year, Zimbabwe had a total hectarage of around 29 000 ha with
private sector planting 13 000 ha from the planned 15 000 ha and command managed 16 000 ha from the planned 60 000 ha.


From that hectarage, the country managed to get around 60 000 tonnes of wheat against a demand of 450 000 tonnes.


In 2018 wheat output stood at 160 000 metric tonnes and the output trend has continued to go down since then.


Agriculture experts say government and farmers have to work together to maximise on output if production is going down.


A top farmer gets five tonnes per hectare and the average national
wheat production stands at almost two tonnes per hectare.


If Zimbabwe manages to get five tonnes on the 41 000ha, an output
of 200 000 tonnes will be expected.


National Foods has already planted 3000 ha of the cereal this year.
The country will use over US$350m on wheat importation.
Murdoch is hoping that farmers will not be affected by massive loadshedding to improve production.


However, the government is upbeat about planting 60 000 ha of
winter wheat this year, according to agriculture experts given the water
and electricity challenges, the total hectarage is going to be around 30
000 ha.


Though the government is pushing that the private sector is going to plant 15 000 ha, the participants are targeting 10 000ha.


Zimbabwe’s cereal demand has risen to 450 000 tonnes from 400 000 tonnes in 2015 due to change in lifestyles and production of many foodstuffs that need wheat.


However, even if the country was to achieve the national requirement
the country will still need to import wheat to make good quality bread as
local wheat can’t make good quality bread due to conditions in which
the wheat is grown under.


The wheat is very good at manufacturing biscuits and other things.
Due to economic meltdown, it is now difficult for the government
to announce a pre-planting price as it will be eroded by rampant
inflationary pressures.


Official winter wheat planting window begins in early April and ends mid-June.

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