Kudakwashe Mhundwa Business Reporter
Government’s drive to increase wheat production has begun paying dividends with the country recording a 28,3 percent increase in yield per hectare output, statistics provided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in its Quarterly Economic Review have indicated.
According to its 2018 fourth quarter report, the apex bank said wheat output for the year stood at 160 663 tonnes from 158 515 tonnes produced in 2017 marking a gradual two percent increase on last year, although area planted declined 22 percent during the period under review on the back of viability concerns associated with growing the crop.
“Wheat output stood at 160 663 tonnes in 2018, up from 158 515 tonnes in 2017. This was despite the 22 percent decline in area planted, which fell from 43 846 hectares in 2017 to 34 686 hectares in 2018. The decline in hectarage was largely due to viability concerns, due to high irrigation costs which adversely affected some farmers in 2017. The increase in wheat output could be attributed to the 28,3 percent increase in yield per hectare, reflecting increased productivity by traditional wheat farmers. The crop benefited from adequate water supplies and stable power supply, which supported irrigation activities,” said the central bank.
The country’s wheat output still falls far short of the country’s domestic requirement which stands at about 400 000 tonnes annually. According to the National Bakers Association they have only been receiving about 40 percent of their requirements since June 2018, a development that has led to operational challenges being faced by bread makers across the country.
Farmers have blamed the subdued agricultural performance on a number of factors chief among them being lack of agricultural implements including irrigation equipment and combine harvesters and low funding to the sector. However, Government says it is working flat out to ensure that they boost the country’s wheat production by embarking on irrigation development schemes which will see it developing at least 2 000 hectares of irrigation for every district in the country.
Recently, Government also announced that it is currently locked in negotiations with Belarus for the supply of 3 000 farming implements, including combine harvesters and irrigation equipment.
Seed Co chief agronomist John Basera is on record saying the country needs to tap into the vast water resources at its disposal as irrigation development is a key success factor in wheat production.
“Irrigation is a critical success factor in wheat production, the success of any wheat crop is centred on successful irrigation scheduling, so we need to up our game in terms of irrigation scheduling and tapping into the water bodies in Zimbabwe as we have 10 000 dams with a capacity to irrigate more than 2 million hectares.
“Irrigation development is very critical, we really need to up our functional irrigation from the current 160 000 hectares to around 200 000 and there is need to gradually increase it year on year. There is also need for moisture sensors for irrigation scheduling because you don’t need to over irrigate or under irrigate but at the same time water irrigation is one of the major cost drivers in the cost structure per hectare,” he said