THE country’s record wheat haul, which now stands at a staggering 465 000 tonnes, could potentially lead to a decline in prices for basics like bread, it has been learnt.
The harvest from this year’s winter wheat crop is 100 000 tonnes more than national demand, which presently stands at 360 000 tonnes.
Flour is a major ingredient in many staple foods such as bread, pasta and pastries.
Soft wheat, which Zimbabwe produces, is typically milled into flour and used to make a wide range of foods, including bread, muffins, noodles, pasta, biscuits, cakes, cookies, pastries and cereal bars.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairperson Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said the country could export some of the soft wheat in return for only 30 percent hard wheat to meet the market standards of bread.
“To us, this is the smartest way of doing business. We will not need foreign currency to import,” he said.
“What this means is, once we have enough flour at a reduced price as tabled by Government, the flour price, bread price and the price of other wheat products will eventually drop.”
Over the past five years, Government has made deliberate interventions to boost wheat production.
Agriculture expert Mr Basil Nyabadza said there was also need to decentralise bakeries to get maximum benefit from rising production of the cereal.
“If we can come up with one price for all bread consumers across the country, with a bakery station in one town, it means if that particular bakery is producing for the local population only, the price may be lower.
“Let us reduce transportation costs of bread and products through rural industrialisation,” he said.
The country has surpassed its winter wheat output target for the second successive season.
Chief director responsible for agricultural engineering, mechanisation, post-harvest agro-processing and soil conservation in the Ministry of Lands,
Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Engineer Edwin Zimunga, said: “We can safely say wheat harvesting is complete. From the mechanisation view, we are now shifting focus to land preparation for the summer cropping season.
“Government’s investment in wheat production continues to pay off handsomely, as farmers have successfully harvested over 465 000 tonnes, representing a new record in wheat production.
“We have reason to celebrate as our farmers really answered the call from the Government to fight for food security. It is clear that the initiatives are yielding results.”
Initially, Government had set a target of 408 000 tonnes this season, but later reviewed it upwards to 420 000 tonnes, before later settling at a target of 440 000 tonnes.
The 440 000-tonnes target was motivated by the announcement of favourable pre-planting producer prices, which attracted farmers to increase hectares under production to 90 192 hectares, up from last year’s 78 000 hectares.
Uninterrupted electricity and water supply for irrigation also further made it possible for farmers to follow good agronomic practices, leading to an improvement of production per unit area.
With enhanced Government extension services, the average yield per hectare rose to between 5,1 tonnes and 5,3 tonnes, compared to last year’s 4,3 tonnes per hectare.
Added Engineer Zimunga: “If you remember, we made the pre-planting producer prices announcement in time to motivate and assure farmers that their labour will get paid handsomely.
“We also crowded in all necessary players, from the banking sector and private players, to ensure no one is left behind in bringing wheat self-sufficiency to Zimbabwe.”
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said the new wheat record brings hope for good and stable prices.
“From a consumer perspective, the bumper harvest of wheat is good news.
“We stand to benefit immensely by way of stability of pricing on any products produced from wheat,” said CCZ chief executive officer Mrs Rosemary Mpofu.
“In a way, excess wheat will be exported, bringing in much-needed foreign currency to sustain economic activities.”
Wheat exports, she said, will boost economic activities.
“In turn, we are bound to see improved livelihoods and food security at household level, as the country retains its status as the food basket of the Southern Africa region.”
Prior to the winter season, Government set a pre-planting producer price of US$520 per tonne of wheat, which is partly paid in foreign currency, while the local currency component is paid at the prevailing interbank rate.
Government has also liberalised the marketing of grain, with all contractors, including the Food Crop Contractors Association and CBZ Holdings, allowed to buy back contracted crops.
Financiers such as AFC Land Bank and CBZ were actively involved in giving farmers loans, while other private sector players were also involved in raising money for the entire winter cropping season.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority also provided 120MW of uninterrupted power to wheat farmers for irrigation.
In addition, the Migratory Pests and Biosecurity Control Department made efforts to thwart threats from quelea birds.
High-end AGRAS T40 drones — the latest versions in agricultural operations — were acquired to beef up traditional methods.
Government also deployed a total of 249 state-of-the-art GS12 combine harvesters acquired under the Belarus Phase 1 and Phase 2 Farm Mechanisation Scheme to speed up harvesting.