Government has availed US$120 million towards procurement of critical inputs to support farmers under the 2019 winter wheat production, according to Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa.
The country has set a target of 75 000 hectares during this year’s winter wheat season with anticipated high yields set to improve domestic supply and cut the import bill.
Under the Command Agriculture model, an import substitution programme, Government has indicated plans for the country to plant 60 000ha with additional 15 000ha to be sponsored by the private sector.
The development comes at a time when local agro-processing companies are grappling with foreign currency shortages to import critical materials.
Minister Mutsvangwa, told our Bulawayo Bureau that Government had increased its support for winter wheat production to reduce forex demand for cereal imports.
“Zimbabwe is targeting to put a total of 75 000ha under winter wheat production during the 2019 winter wheat production and US$120 million was invested in purchasing of some inputs, tillage and the whole production process,” she said.
With 75 000ha expected to be planted by the end of this month, the country is expected to produce over 375 000 tonnes of wheat up from 165 000 tonnes achieved last season.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the country would most likely import an estimate of 75 000 tonnes of wheat to bridge the gap against the estimated demand of about 450 000 tonnes.
Wheat demand has risen from 400 000 tonnes in 2015 to 450 000 tonnes in 2018 due to the change in lifestyle and production of various food stuffs that need wheat.
Agricultural experts have welcome Government’s efforts to support the sector arguing that increased local wheat production would save the country forex while creating jobs through the cereal’s value chain. Due to economic challenges wheat production has remained subdued from a peak of about 325 000 tonnes in early 2000 to as low as about 160 000 tonnes last year.
This shows Zimbabwe is less than 40 percent self-sufficient in wheat production.
Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 2018 introduced a project in support of wheat production through innovative platforms called the Technologies for the African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT).
The same wheat initiative is being implemented in Zimbabwe and seeks to achieve transformational impact and sustainable increases in wheat production for enhanced food security, economic growth, and poverty alleviation.
TAAT is working with the Government of Zimbabwe to improve yield levels to an average of six tonnes per ha from the previous four tonnes and this is likely to positively impact on the wheat output.