ZIMBABWE’S winter wheat production this year is projected to reach over 100 000 metric tonnes (MT) from about 20 000MT in 2017, due to command agriculture-related investments, an official of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) has said.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The increase is still less than a third of national wheat/flour demand estimated at 350 000MT and just about 30,8% of peak output of 325 000MT in 2001.
“Wheat production is gradually improving, thanks to the command agriculture programme,” ZCFU president Wonder Chabikwa told NewsDay in a telephone interview.
“This winter season, we are targeting around 30 000 hectares and that will give us about 100 000 metric tonnes of wheat. That would be a huge improvement. The potential is there to increase wheat production. What is needed is to retool our irrigation infrastructure.”
Zimbabwe’s wheat production first experienced a steep decline in 2002 when output halved to 150 000MT.
Over the years, yields averaged 1,5 tonnes per hectare due to a myriad of challenges facing farmers.
Chabikwa said the farming sector in Zimbabwe was heavily weighed down by shortage of machinery, high electricity costs as well as lack of cheap financing.
In a bid to restore self-sufficiency and reduce wheat imports, 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 complemented by contract farming arrangements with the private sector.
In the 2018 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said adequate preparations were key for a successful agricultural season.
Accordingly, and in collaboration with the private sector, Chinamasa said government support would see the 2018 budget allocating 9% of the total revenue for the year to agriculture, up from 7% in 2017.
“Building on the success and lessons from the first phase of the special maize and wheat programmes, government has already mobilised the resources for the second phase of the programme to the tune of $266,4 million for maize and soya beans production,” he said.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s winter wheat production was projected to reach over 20 000MT from about 10 000MT in 2016.