Agriculture

Zim projects 250k tonnes wheat output

LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

Zimbabwe is projecting winter wheat output to increase by 212.5% to reach 250, 000 tonnes this season from last year’s output of 80,000 tonnes due to steady electricity supplies and increased funding.

The output will be more than half of the 450,000 tonnes annual wheat requirements meaning the economy will import more to plug the gap.

The hectarage for the winter wheat programme was 41,000 down from the planned 65,000 hectares due to dwindling water levels in various water bodies.

The hectarage was a 41% jump from last year’s 29,000.

The National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC) is working with the government through public private partnerships to ensure electricity and water is readily available for farmers.

NWCFC is a technical committee which was formed in 2018 to lead wheat contract farming up to 2021.

NWCFC vice- chairperson Graeme Murdoch of Paper Hole Investments told Business Times this week that wheat output is expected to significantly go up due to proper funding and planning.

“We expect an improvement in wheat output this season to a yield of around 250,000 tonnes due to an uninterrupted power supply and drilling of boreholes where water levels are going down or where water sources are going down,” Murdoch said.

“The 250,000 tonne figure came from the government about a month ago but judging from what we have assessed we concur with them and came up with a conclusion that the winter wheat crop is healthier than the past season and can reach the 250,000 tonne mark or better.”

Last year, farmers battled with power cuts as the power utility failed to meet demand due to low water levels at Kariba hydropower station resulting in reduced generation.

Economic analysts said the wheat output should increase to save the economy from importing more at a time Zimbabwe is grappling with hunger, foreign currency shortages and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of this year’s winter wheat hectarage, private sector players planted between 7,000 hectares and 10,000 due to dwindling water levels in various water sources caused by the drought in the past summer cropping season.

When exports and production are going down, agriculture experts said, the government and private sector should work together to improve production.

In 2018, wheat output stood at 160,000 metric tonnes and since then the national output has been sliding further down.

This year Zimbabwe is expected to improve wheat output per hectare of five tonnes to reach above seven tonnes per hectare.

It is estimated that Zimbabwe will import US$200m of wheat from Eastern Europe to bake bread as the local wheat alone cannot bake quality bread.

The local wheat has to be blended for it to be able to bake bread. Local wheat is mainly used for self-raising flour and biscuits.

Zimbabwe’s cereal demand has increased to 450,000 tonnes from 400,000 in 2015 due to change of lifestyles and increased food stuffs production.

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