THE Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) has projected that this year winter wheat harvest will grow by at least 525 percent to 125 000 tonnes on the back of the Command Agriculture programme.
In April, Government launched a 67 000-hectare Command Wheat programme, which at minimal yield was expected to significantly cut Zimbabwe’s cereal import bill.
Under the Command Wheat initiative, as part of efforts by Government to guarantee food security, this year’s winter programme targeted 50 000 hectares funded by petroleum giant, Sakunda.
A further 17 000 ha was expected to be funded by other contractors.
In an interview, ZCFU president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said wheat harvesting across the country was progressing well with the exercise expected to be complete by the end of the week.
“In terms of yield per hectare, we are looking at farmers achieving four tonnes and above and at national level as per Agritex figures they are looking at about 125 000 tonnes.
“So far indications are that if we conclude our harvesting before the onset of the rains, we will achieve or surpass the projected 125 000 tonnes and that will go a long way in import substitution,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s wheat yield in 2017 was estimated at 20 000 tonnes.
The crop’s output experienced a steep decline when production halved to 150 000 tonnes before further declining to about 38 000 tonnes during the hyperinflation period of 2008/9.
Zimbabwe requires 450 000 tonnes of wheat per year and at its peak in 2001 production stood at 325 000 tonnes.
Mr Chabikwa said the hectarage planted under winter wheat this year was lower than that of 2017 as the farmers involved in the maize Command Agriculture programme were also involved in a similar initiative for wheat.
“It was not feasible in most instances for the same farmers involved in maize production under the Command Agriculture programme to immediately embark on command wheat farming in winter. As a result, this contributed to the reduction in hectarage under winter crop,” he said.
Mr Chabikwa said so far the winter wheat harvesting was progressing well despite the fuel challenges and combine harvester shortage.
“But the challenges are easing up and we are thankful that the onset of the upcoming rain season has delayed otherwise we could have been left counting our losses.
“We hope that by the end of this week, we should generally be through with all wheat harvesting,” he said.
Turning to availability of inputs for this summer cropping season, Mr Chabikwa said:
“We have been informed by suppliers that the inputs are available but the pricing in the market has more than doubled if compared to those that prevailed as at September 30, 2018. And it’s quite a strain to farmers especially seed maize, it is our hope that the price of inputs will go down”.
Last week, Government hinted there was no justification by seed producers to hike prices saying it will take measures to protect farmers against the unwarranted behaviour by the manufacturers.
The increases came as farmers were finalising preparations for the summer cropping season.