Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Winter wheat hectarage drops

Winter wheat hectarage drops

wheatOliver Kazunga Senior Business Reporter
WINTER wheat farming in Zimbabwe has dropped to about 2,600 hectares this season from 6,000 hectares planted in 2014 due to numerous viability challenges facing farmers.

Over the years, farmers have cited lack of funding, power constraints, the impact of cheap imports and high input costs as major challenges affecting wheat production.

As a result, the country, which requires between 200,000 tonnes and 350,000 tonnes of wheat annually, has been forced to rely on imports to cover the deficit.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) executive director Paul Zakariya told Business Chronicle yesterday that wheat production in the country had significantly gone down in recent years as it was no longer profitable to grow the crop.

“The hectarage under winter wheat has significantly gone down because it’s no longer profitable to do wheat farming. People don’t grow wheat because it’s good for the country but for profitability reasons. Of late, wheat production has increasingly become expensive,” he said.

“Where farmers have the assurance that they will get electricity from Zesa, they don’t get it and resort to using diesel powered generators for irrigation. In addition farmers also have got challenges with water where the Zimbabwe National Water Authority has made the commodity very expensive for the farmer. For example, commercial farmers are spending about $5,000 per hectare on water.”

Zakariya said wheat production in Zimbabwe has become an insignificant issue to talk about as production of the crop continued to decline.

“We’re losing wheat farmers due to the challenges facing the sector. For example, wheat production in 2009 was at 60,000 ha but we’ve now come down to about 2,600 ha. And talking about the hectarage under winter wheat is an insignificant issue rather discussions should be centred on how to address the challenges facing farmers to improve production,” he added.

The government has said it was targeting 40,000 ha under winter wheat this season.

Zakariya said the government should intervene and offer subsidises to encourage farmers to venture into wheat farming.

“Local banks should also offer financial support and we implore the government to intervene to address the challenges of water and power constraints,” he said.

Zakariya said farmers had also been discouraged from growing wheat due to lack of subsidies from the government, non-payment for deliveries by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and competition from cheap wheat imports.

“Farmers have also been discouraged from growing wheat due to competition created by wheat imports into the country. Wheat is imported into the country at a cheaper price than you would find in other countries. Imported wheat is landing at between $400 and $500 per tonne yet local farmers are charging between $600 and $700 per tonne,” he said.

Winter wheat planting begins in mid April to mid May.

Zakariya said: “Some farmers are still planting despite the lapse of the May 15 deadline. Those who’re still planting risk making significant losses.”

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Wonder Chabikwa said winter wheat planting by some of their members was still in progress.

He said they were looking at who would buy their crop in the next marketing season as GMB has in previous seasons delayed paying them on time for their deliveries.

Recently, the government announced that it had released $5 million to GMB to pay wheat farmers for last year’s crop deliveries.

A further $2 million is expected to be released soon.


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