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Ellen Chasokela and Rutendo Rori
The early wheat planting for the National Wheat Contract (NWC) farming starts today and 13 000 hectares have been signed up for the crop.
The target is to produce at least 150 000 tonnes of wheat worth US$80 million.
The NWC is a private sector response to Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube’s plea to the private sector to complement Government efforts in agriculture.
National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC) deputy chairman, Mr Graeme Murdoch said they required US$15 million to secure all the inputs required to plant and harvest 90 000 tonnes of wheat.
“Zimbabwe needs at least 270 000 tonnes of local wheat annually and approximately 130 000 tonnes of specific grade imported wheat to produce suitable bakers’ flour,” he said.
“The El Nino affected 2018/2019 rainfall season has meant that the hectarage available for a winter programme has been reduced, particularly in the traditionally high producing areas of Mashonaland West and parts of Mashonaland Central.
“We need around US$15 million to secure all the inputs required to plant and harvest 90 000 tonnes of wheat.
“Depending on the final producer price at harvest, we believe that farmers will earn at least RTGS$108 million from wheat from this initiative.”
Mr Murdoch said three private companies were contracted to carry out the project.
“PHI Commodities, Northern Farming and Staywell are the contractors and they have contracted individual farmers to plough wheat,” he said.
“The three contractors have been an integral part of Government’s Command (Agriculture) programme for a few years and in an effort to ensure that as much wheat as possible is grown in 2019 they have committed to grow, between them, at least 15 000 hectares of winter wheat this season, to produce approximately 90 000 tonnes of wheat.
“Contractors have also secured the required fertiliser and crop chemicals for the planned hectarage, although we are looking to our parent ministry to assist in whatever way possible to ensure that we are able to secure the necessary foreign currency from the interbank market to settle our commitments to the input suppliers.
“We also need access to bulk diesel supplies to, in the first instance, allow the timely harvest of the summer crop, but to then see the wheat crop planted and tended through to harvest in October 2019.”
Mr Murdoch thanked stakeholders who have chipped in with assistance.
“Farmers have been concerned about the viability of wheat,” he said.
“Paper Hall Investment (PHI) has agreed a pre-planting model with our private sector contracting partners and with the final off takers and users of the wheat.
“Members of the Grain Millers Association have guaranteed an offtake of this wheat and the private sector grouping have been working with various Government agencies to ensure that the crop is planted at the optimum time and with all of the necessary inputs to produce a high yielding crop.”