NatFoods to Cultivate 5,000 Hectares of Winter Wheat Amid Government’s Push for Increased Production

Chief Executive Officer, Michael Lashbrook
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National Foods Limited (NatFoods) has announced plans to allocate 5,000 hectares of land for winter wheat cultivation this year through its contract farming program, aiming to contribute to the Government’s target of 120,000 hectares for the cereal crop.

This initiative is particularly crucial following the El Niño-induced drought, which devastated much of the summer crop this season.

Last year, NatFoods procured 40,000 tonnes of winter wheat from contracted farmers. The company established its contract farming unit, PHI, in 2011 to facilitate such partnerships.

In addition to winter wheat, NatFoods anticipates a yield of 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of maize from the 2023-2024 summer cropping season, with 5,200 hectares dedicated to maize cultivation. Furthermore, 2,400 hectares were allocated for soybean cultivation during the same period.

The emphasis on boosting local wheat production is driven by NatFoods’ investment in expanding production lines that rely on wheat as a primary raw material. The Government has implemented measures to encourage winter wheat production, aiming to reduce reliance on imports and ultimately become a net exporter of the cereal.

Zimbabwe traditionally imports soft wheat, mainly from neighboring countries like South Africa, as well as distant nations like Argentina and Russia, to meet domestic demand. However, initiatives from both the Government and private sector aim to shift this narrative by ramping up local production.

During a recent media tour of NatFoods, CEO Mr. Michael Lashbrook expressed optimism about the upcoming winter wheat season, highlighting the positive outlook for the crop planted across approximately 5,000 hectares through the PHI contract farming scheme.

From the private sector, various entities are also contributing to the drive for increased wheat production. CBZ Agroyield targets 11,500 hectares, NMBZ aims for 2,500 hectares, AFC land bank plans for 16,000 hectares, and ARDA, in a joint venture with an undisclosed entity, will allocate 43,000 hectares for wheat cultivation, in addition to 2,000 hectares on its own estates.

Zimbabwe’s winter wheat cultivation has seen steady growth in recent years, with 90,192 hectares planted in 2023, up from 80,883 hectares in 2022. This resulted in a harvest of 467,905 tonnes of wheat in 2023, compared to 375,000 tonnes in the previous year.

The Government remains committed to reinforcing agricultural initiatives to achieve food self-sufficiency targets outlined in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1).

The strategy aims to increase food self-sufficiency from 45 percent to 100 percent and reduce food insecurity from 59 percent in 2020 to less than 10 percent by 2025, with significant support from private sector partners.