Home » Business » Winter Wheat Production Targets Now Unrealistic

ZIMBABWE is likely to miss its 29 000 tonne wheat production target for this season due to lack of funding by both government and finance institutions, it has emerged.

Most wheat growers who were expecting government assistance in producing the crop have started panicking as it dawns on them that no such funding shall come by.

“Chances are high that this winter season, some farmers might consider horticultural crops. The major challenge facing wheat producers is that of funding,” said Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Wonder Chabikwa.

Chabikwa said most local financial institutions that have supported wheat production have had a change of heart after government has failed to invent a regulatory framework to guide contact farming.

Zimbabwe Women Farmers Association Trust president Depinah Nkomo said farmers cannot fund themselves since they are yet to get paid for their summer crops which they are still harvesting.

He said the cost of wheat production in the country was expensive due to irrigation costs as well as high electricity tariffs and high input cost.

“Due to power cuts that have characterised our country, the cost of irrigation is too high,” he added.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, in his 2014 budget statement, also admitted wheat production had become unattractive due to the huge costs invested.

“Challenges that have continued to affect the production of the crop include erratic power supply for irrigation, funding and high production costs, among others, making the production of the crop unviable,” Chinamasa said.

A leading agriculture expert Professor Mandivamba Rukuni says government and the private sector must work together to help increase wheat production in the country.

Rukuni said that there was no other way wheat production can be increased without all stakeholders pulling in the same direction.

“The vision of continuing sustained winter wheat production will remain a pipe dream if we don’t address the issue of water, irrigation and funding,” he said.

Power outages have been the major contributing factor to the current slump in wheat production.

Production of the crop has declined to an all-time low of 31 000 tonnes this year against a national requirement of 400 000 tonnes.

According to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), the country last year imported over 35 000 tonnes of wheat worth over US$22 million while this year alone, it has imported a total of 1100 tonnes of wheat valued at over a million dollars.

Rukuni noted that there was need to revive the contract farming model which assists in unlocking capital into the mainstay agriculture sector.

“Once capital in unlocked then farmers can better utilise the resources they already have and production and productivity are likely to increase,” he said.

“Farmers should stop wishing that government will distribute inputs to them for free.

This model does not work. Government must create a good environment conducive for investment while the private sector comes in and offer financial support for setting up irrigation infrastructure and inputs.”

In August, last year the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) signed a memorandum of Understanding with farmers to capacitate them to produce 220 000 metric tonnes of wheat per year for supply to the baking industry.

“This agreement entails that the bakers will buy at least 75 percent of their monthly flour requirements from local farmers,” said GMAZ president Tafadzwa Musarara.

Musarara noted that millers will leverage this secured business to fund wheat contract farming so that 60 percent or more of the required wheat is obtained locally.

Source : New Zimbabwe