A total of 85 000 hectares have been targeted for winter wheat this year and this is expected to produce 408 000 tonnes of the cereal, well above the 375 000 tonnes of last year and the minimum of 360 000 tonnes needed for self-sufficiency.
A target of 7 700ha has been set for barley production this year, most of which goes to malt for beer.
In its 2023/24 Summer and Winter Crop and Livestock programme, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development said the wheat crop would be supported through private contractors, Government’s National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), Presidential wheat support scheme and self-financed growers.
CBZ Agro-Yield is targeting at contracting 20 000ha at a projected average yield of 4,8 tonnes/ha, with the estimated production set at 96 000 tonnes.
The AFC Land Bank is targeting at contracting 15 000ha with a projected yield of 4,8 t/ha and the estimated production is 72 000 tonnes.
The private sector and self -financed scheme will contract 25 0000ha of wheat with a projected average yield of 4.8t/ha to give an estimated production of 120 000 tonnes while the Presidential scheme is targeted for 20 000 ha for wheat, at a projected average yield of 4.8 t/ha, and estimated production is 96 000 tonnes.
Preparations for the 2023/24 summer and winter seasons are being done earlier because of the Russia and Ukraine conflict.
Combined, Ukraine and Russia were responsible for about 26 percent of global wheat exports in 2020 and the conflict makes it important for Zimbabwe to be self-sufficient and opens potential export markets.
Early preparations for the 2023/24 summer season and the 2023 winter wheat will enable consultations with key stakeholders in the agriculture sector, to improve co-ordination and planning for the season, the Ministry said.
“The 2023/24 summer and the 2023 winter season programme target is to sustainably increase crop production and productivity to meet and surpass the national requirements for both human consumption and industrial use.
“The Ministry thrust for the 2023/24 season is mainly focusing in achieving food security, oil seed security as well as stock feed security.”
Government has been targeting increases in wheat production to meet the national requirement in line with the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Agriculture Recovery Plan and the National Development Strategy 1 and in pursuit of the vision of becoming an empowered and prosperous upper middle income society by 2030.
Thus a number of strategies have been put in place to boost production and wheat has not been left out.
The Ministry of Lands has been working closely with important stakeholders such as ZETDC and Zinwa to ensure all things are in place for wheat production.
The crop is grown under irrigation so farmers need irrigation water and a constant electricity supply.
This has seen farmers being put in clusters so they could be prioritised on power supply.
The Government has also been encouraging the private sector to meet at least 40 percent of the production of their raw material requirements in line with Government policy.
That means millers, especially, should be contracting out for at least 40 percent of their requirements, rather than just buy each month from the Grain Marketing Board.
The announcement of pre-planting producer prices by Government has also been motivating farmers to produce the crop.
The wheat producer price has been pegged in foreign currency and this will also attract many farmers with irrigation facilities to grow the crop.
Farmers are optimistic that they will be able to undertake massive winter farming this year following more rains that have already filled major irrigation dams.
Former Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) vice president Mr Edward Dune said farmers in all wheat growing areas should be trained on planting, fertiliser applications and diseases control among other important agronomic practices.
“Water for irrigation in winter is so far guaranteed, with farmers urged to harvest rainwater for sustainable crop production since the initiative is a practical solution to crop moisture deficit. Land preparation, including clearing, is underway and most farmers are optimistic of a bumper wheat harvest because abundant rains make the crop viable,” said Mr Dune.
“Farmers who are near dams should use the water for agricultural production. This needs to be used wisely in order for us to improve productivity.
“Very soon they will all fill up and this will go a long way in improving agricultural activities and boost production, so we expect more production from winter wheat. More farmers are likely to take up winter wheat farming because of foreign currency which motivates more farmers”.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said farmers should practise water harvesting to ensure they have enough water to irrigate crops in the winter period.
He urged farmers to fully use their land for maximum profits and allow exports, as well as self-sufficiency.
“Water for irrigation in winter is so far guaranteed, and farmers are urged to harvest rainwater for sustainable crop production”, said Dr Makombe. “We are sure of a bumper wheat harvest following good rains. Good agronomic practises are key to productivity, farmers should follow agronomic practises to enhance productivity.”
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Mrs Monica Chinamasa said winter farmers should start preparations now.
“The rising dam levels signal a bumper winter harvest this year and winter farmers must start preparations now. This is very crucial for the winter crop such as wheat, but I urge the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to act on stream bank cultivation which is causing a lot of siltation,” she said.