By Livingstone Marufu and Africa Moyo
Preparations for the 2018 winter wheat cropping season are progressing well amid indications Government has already secured 80 percent of inputs for the programme. Farmers are expected to start serious wheat planting on May 1. This comes at a time when Government is pushing for a large import drop for wheat under Command Agriculture.
Government is targeting 67 000 tonnes under the programme. Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) executive director Paul Zakariya, on Tuesday said preparations for winter wheat cropping were at an advanced stage with most of the farmers finalising land preparations.
“We are happy that our farmers are running round the clock to finish off winter wheat land preparations. As we speak, most farmers are doing the last minute harvesting (of maize) to start tilling for the winter wheat.
“Some farmers have received inputs, but we want the process to be paced up to ensure that we plant on time. If the farmers can access inputs early and beat the June 10 window period, we will get a good harvest,” said Mr Zakariya.
Mr Zakariya encouraged farmers to plant early so that they get a good harvest. Agriculture experts say any wheat crop planted after May 15 tends to be affected by rains resulting in low output. It is argued that a farmer risks losing at least 50kg of wheat for each day that they plant after May 15.
ZCFU president Wonder Chabikwa, said the Command Wheat programme will help farmers and remove the need for bank loans.
“We are happy that the Government is covering the gap left out by the banks. Farmers can now plant wheat as they are now given inputs under the programme and pay back using the stop order (system).
“I always disagreed with high bank interest rates and I am very happy that the Command Wheat (programme) has been able to cover that gap,” said Mr Chabikwa.
Expectations are high that the yield would be satisfactory given the high water levels in most dams across the country following good rains from February to early April.
On Monday, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) tweeted that that most dams were full, and farmers could start working towards securing their allocations.
“Manyame catchment’s dam level average is 99,8 percent, Save catchment 91,3 percent, Runde (73,4 percent), Mzingwane (90,7 percent) and Gwayi (89,2 percent).
“This means improved water security for winter cropping. Farmers should sign agreements to have allocations in the dams,” said Zinwa.