Zimbabwe: Wheat Farmers Urged to Get Expert Advice

Wheat farmers have been urged to engage local agronomists and extension workers to increase production and push Zimbabwe into self-sufficiency.

Guidance is crucial, but for any cropping venture to be successful, it is important to start on time.

The highest wheat yields are obtained when establishment is done within the first two weeks of May.

In an interview, Zimbabwe Farmers Union director Mr Paul Zakariya said wheat planting was progressing well, adding that those who still wanted to continue planting should be cautious since the cut-off date for planting was May 15.

“Farmers should be cautious, but specific issues such as the location and the type of soils should be taken into consideration, hence advice from experts is very crucial when one decides to continue planting in June,” he said.

“It is tricky to continue planting, but the major challenge on the ground is that we have farmers who did not get inputs on time because they failed to access funds on time.”

Mr Zakariya said the electricity supply was better than before and there is a possibility of attaining a good harvest.

In Zimbabwe, wheat is the second most important cereal crop after maize.

The annual wheat consumption for Zimbabwe is above 400 000 tonnes and the country has been moving closer to this sort of harvest.

While risks are in theory very low, since the crop is grown under total irrigation, farmers have to budget for the water and electricity costs and there have been seasons where load shedding has meant that the crop was not properly irrigated.

Although alternatives to Zesa exist, use of generators drives up costs and makes the crop unviable and with inadequate irrigation, yields plummet.

Zimbabwe is targeting more than 85 000 hectares of wheat this winter from all farmers, to reach the goal of self-sufficiency.

Last season, farmers produced a harvest to cover nine months’ supply to meet domestic demand, a major jump, with the GMB receiving 156 144 tonnes from the farmers it had under contract, but with large sales direct to millers and some millers now starting contract farming.

After last year’s major jump in the size of the harvest, another year of gain should see Zimbabwe, for the first time ever, achieving self-sufficiency.

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