GOVERNMENT wants over 70 000 hectares of wheat planted as Command Agriculture stretches into winter season production.
Preparations for the winter cereal crop are at an advanced stage with vast tracts of irrigable land already tilled.
According to the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ministry, Zimbabwe is targeting 200 000 metric tonnes of wheat.
Production figures had dropped over the years to an average of 70 000 tonnes against the all-time high of 400 000.
In a recent interview, Agriculture Minister Dr Joseph Made said, “So far we have registered up to 50 000 hectares of land to be put under winter wheat and we are still mobilising more resources to reach a target of 70 000 hectares this year.
“We require a total of US$140 million to plant 70 000 hectares. . .As we speak some of the seed, money, diesel and tilled are already in place to kick start the season. We have planned to start planting before the end of April, but we may start earlier as there is so much land which was supposed to be used for maize production which can be utilised for winter wheat production.”
Dr Made said both top dressing and basal fertilisers, as well as 70 000 tonnes of lime, had been secured for the programme.
It is understood that organisations like Sakunda, National Foods, Northern Farming Company, Stay Well Company, PHI and the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe had pledged to grow winter wheat under the targeted Command Agriculture scheme.
Zimbabwe will significantly cut wheat imports and save roughly US$70 million if it attains its 200 000-tonne winter wheat production target.
On average, the country spends US$100 million yearly on flour imports.
On agri-lending, Dr Made said: “With financial inclusion and private public partnerships now taking centre stage, funding is no longer a big challenge these days. We have pegged the winter wheat producer price at US$500 per tonne, with private buyers only offering US$360 to US$380.
“We have been encouraged and propelled by this year’s rains that have filled most of our water sources to full capacity. Thus we are heading for a good winter wheat season.