Zimbabwe wheat production plummets

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Zimbabwe’s wheat production declined from 186 243 metric tonnes in 2017 to 160 600 metric tonnes last year, deputy Agriculture minister Vangelis Haritatos has said.

This has resulted in the country increasingly relying on imports to make up for shortfalls and meet wheat demand, estimated at 400 000 metric tonnes annually.

“Last season, the country produced 160 660 metric tonnes of wheat.  Payments to farmers are up to date except for the price adjustments to wheat deliveries as the producer price has been increased from $500 per metric tonne, to $621,50 per metric tonne,” he said.
“Our national wheat requirement has increased from between 300 000 metric tonnes in the 1990s to 400 000 metric tonnes currently.

In 1989, 325 000 metric tonnes was produced from 56 000 hectares. In 1990, the country produced 300 000 metric tonnes from 50 000 hectares. This was enough to meet the country’s need for soft wheat. However, we still had to import the hard wheat which we do not produce in our country.”

The latest announcement comes after Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu last month said Zimbabwe was losing $100 annually to wheat imports due to failure by farmers to produce enough stocks.
Haritatos further indicated that the country’s milling industry requires two types of wheat to produce bread-making flour.

“The main one is soft wheat, which constitutes between 90 percent to 92 percent of wheat used for bread making and hard wheat which is also known as gristing wheat which constitutes between eight percent -10 percent. Under local conditions, it is more advantageous to produce the soft than hard wheat,” he said.

Of the 186 000 metric tonnes of wheat produced last year, 80 percent of the tonnage delivered came from farmers contracted under the government’s command agriculture programme. In the previous season, the country had produced less than 100 000 tonnes of wheat.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz) recently said it is working on a contract farming scheme targeted at increasing the country’s wheat output in order to cut back the country’s reliance on imports for the commodity.

Gmaz said it had appointed a technical committee which will be charged with mobilising inputs and machinery for the production of wheat. The committee would be chaired by Gmaz chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara, and would be deputised by Greame Murdoch of Paper Hole Investments.

“To promote and expand contract wheat farming activities in all suitable farming districts in Zimbabwe, aiming to achieve national annual yield of at least 150 000 metric tonnes for the next three years. This contract will attract new investment locally and abroad,” Gmaz said in a statement.

Other committee members’ include Walter Chigodora of SeedCo, Adrian Carbutt (Rift Valley) Prosper Chiyanike (Metbank) and Johnson Mhanya (Ecobank).