Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
GOVERNMENT continues to increase its support to farmers to ensure the country attains its ambitious winter wheat target of 340 000 tones and achieving wheat self-sufficiency this year.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka, said this during a recent tour of wheat farms in Kwekwe.
The country has set a target of planting 85 000 hectares of land under winter wheat with a target yield of between 340 000 and 380 000 tones.
Zimbabwe requires at least 360 000 tones of wheat every year, and the targeted tonnage output is expected to meet all national requirements and reduce imports, thus saving foreign currency.
Minister Masuka said the Government was leaving no stone unturned in its bid to ensure farmers are well capacitated to produce more.
“For the first time after the accelerated land reform programme, we want to attain national wheat self-sufficiency,” he said.
“When I look at what the farmers are doing, I know we are capable of meeting the target. As a result, the Government has come up with and expanded scheme to enable wheat farmers to produce because farmers are capable if sufficiently resourced and on time.”
Besides the Command and Presidential winter wheat schemes, the minister said the Government has also roped in private sector players who have come in to support winter wheat production.
He said increasing private sector participation was crucial for sustainable financing.
“So, we have started to do that and once you think private sector, you need to do certain things and as the Government we are doing things accordingly,” said Dr Masuka.
Already CBZ Bank has come on board with its ‘Agro-yield’ National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme, which is targeting 60 000 hectares of winter wheat while the Presidential Winter wheat is targeting 10 000. Other private sector interventions are targeting 15 hectares.
Private sector players, largely sponsored by Delta Beverages, have already planted 12 000 hectares.
While there is enough fertilizer for the Command programme, Dr Masuka said seed companies had been overwhelmed by the response by farmers resulting in shortage of the seed.
“We have sufficient fertilizer but not enough seed. Seed houses did not anticipate such a response from farmers. But seed houses, with the help of the Government are moving quickly to address the issue,” said the minister.
Dr Masuka said the Government has managed to contract about 1 200 farmers and that more than 2 000 were interested in taking up the wheat scheme.
Zimbabwe has already recorded a grain surplus following a bumper harvest this year on the back of good rains and improved Government support. The surplus means US$300 million has been saved on grain imports and the resources will be used to finance other pressing developmental projects.
Using the same method, the Government is also pushing towards barley, soya bean, cotton and sunflower in a bid to counter cooking oil shortages. Zimbabwe has been importing wheat from Russia and Ukraine amongst other countries.