Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Winter wheat hectarage set to increase 20 percent

Winter wheat hectarage set to increase 20 percent



Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE area planted under winter wheat is expected to increase by at least 20 percent this year from 70 000 hectares last year as the country seeks to restore self-sustenance, an official said yesterday.

Over the years, Zimbabwe’s wheat production had declined to as low as 20 000ha with yields averaging 1.5 tonnes per ha due to a myriad of challenges facing farmers.

However, in a bid to restore self-sufficiency and reduce wheat imports, the Government last year increased private sector participation in the production of the crop through the Command Agriculture scheme. The Command Agriculture programme on wheat production has also been complimented by contract farming arrangements with the private sector.

Zimbabwe Wheat Board chairman, Mr Givemore Mesoemvura, said this year’s winter wheat farming preparations were already in progress with stakeholders targeting to increase the area under the crop to around 90 000ha from 70 000ha in the previous season.

“We are going to have a pre-planting winter wheat conference in the last two weeks of April to train the farmers on wheat farming so that Zimbabwe achieves self-sustenance,” he said.

“Stakeholders in wheat production are this year targeting to improve the winter wheat hectarage by at least 20 percent from 70 000ha last year to around 90 000ha with an average yield per ha of between 3.5 tonnes and four tonnes.”

Last year, Zimbabwe’s winter wheat production was projected to reach over 20 000 tonnes from about 10 000 tonnes in 2016. Mr Mesoemvura said they were yet to receive the 2017 winter wheat yields statistics from Government adding that for as long as there was a deficit in Zimbabwe’s wheat requirements, the country would continue importing the grain. The country requires between 400 000 tonnes and 450 000 tonnes of wheat annually.

Asked about the challenges farmers faced in the last season, Mr Mesoemvura said:

“This time around we urge the Government to increase the number of harvesting equipment for wheat such as combine harvesters. As it is right now, farmers hire combine harvesters and at times they breakdown and at times the owner recalls the machinery in the middle of harvesting, hampering the harvesting progress by the farmer.

“Due to a shortage of harvesting machinery, some of the wheat last year was affected by the rains while still in the fields and this compromised the quality of the yields.”

At its peak, wheat production in Zimbabwe stood at 325 000 tonnes in 2001 but the crop’s first steep decline occurred in 2002 when output halved to 150 000 tonnes.



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