Govt rules out bread shortages

Perence Shiri

Government has ruled out the possibility of bread shortages in the country as mechanisms have been put in place to import wheat in the short-term. Further, Government wants to boost wheat cropping to secure long-term availability of flour.

This was said by Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri on Monday immediately after being sworn in by President Mnangagwa together with other ministers.

“The immediate way forward would be obviously to import to cover the gap,” said Minister Shiri.

“But beyond that, we need to be able to produce enough wheat for ourselves. We have adequate water bodies but the unfortunate thing is that some of the irrigation infrastructure is in a state of disrepair.

“We are making concerted efforts to ensure that those facilities are resuscitated so that come next winter, we should be able to grow enough wheat for our consumption and if possible even surplus for us to export.”

Zimbabwe requires 450 000 tonnes of wheat to ensure steady supply of bread until the next harvest. Reports suggest that currently, the country is left with wheat stocks for two weeks.

However, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is understood to have arranged letters of credit for the procurement of 40 000 tonnes of wheat, which are required per month. This will extinguish fears of bread shortages.

Minister Shiri said harvesting of the current wheat crop is also set to commence beginning October, a move that will also alleviate bread shortages.

“We are expecting harvesting of the current wheat crop to start at the end of this month. So in between now and the end of the month, we need to come up with plans, probably imports to ensure that we don’t run out of flour,” said Minister Shiri.

The country expects to harvest up to 100 000 tonnes of wheat this year, which remains considerably lower than the national requirement of 450 000 tonnes.

According to Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Mr Justin Mupamhanga, Government’s Command Agriculture programme which was expected to boost production has been affected by shortages of foreign currency.

The shortage has impacted on the shortage of combine harvesters, dryers and threshers; affecting the transition from summer maize to winter wheat cropping.

The absence of irrigation equipment has also affected Command Agriculture’s wheat growing programme, which initially targeted to put 200 000 hectares under irrigation.

“This was not to be as most of the irrigation infrastructure required rehabilitation. To date, a total of 75 041ha of contracted land is irrigable.

“In order to expedite irrigation, Government has made a commitment to put 300 000ha under irrigation by the year 2020. Strategies are already underway to meet this national demand,” said Mr Mupamhanga.

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