Zimbabwe: Record Wheat Harvest Still Possible Despite Rains

Zimbabwe is still on course to register a record wheat harvest and win self-sufficiency for this grain at long last, despite about one percent of the total crop having to be written off as a result of the early rains received in most parts of the country over the past week.

The country is expected to harvest 380 000 tonnes of wheat this season, more than the national requirement of 360 000 tonnes to meet domestic demand, so ensuring self-sufficiency with a modest carry-over stock.

Farmers still harvesting wheat have been affected by the early rains, but with more than two thirds of the crop now safely harvested and sunny spells forecast, the rain damage is most likely to be seen in quality rather than quantity.

After yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the damage would mostly affect the quality of the crop and not the quantity.

“We have done an assessment. To date 820ha (about one percent) may be considered a write-off at this stage. What will be impacted more is the quality not the quantity of the wheat and the final quality will be assessed as that wheat is delivered to GMB or any other off takers,” he said.

Acting Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Sekai Nzenza stressed that the country had good stocks of grains and cereals.

Wheat stocks have now risen to more than 7,3 months’ cover at a consumption rate of 21 000 tonnes a month.

“The cumulative harvested area of the 2022 winter wheat crop stands at 54 716 hectares, translating to 68 percent of the planted area. The total production stands at 119 885 tonnes of wheat, with damage to the crop caused by the rains recently received across the country still being assessed. The volume of wheat delivered to contractors stands at 46 726.53 tonnes,” she said.

The two figures add up to more than 166 000 tonnes harvested, with around 154 000 tonnes already delivered and safely in storage.

In terms of summer grain stocks, Minister Nzenza said there were 566 841 tonnes at the GMB comprising 487 274 tonnes of maize and 79 567 tonnes of traditional grains. This, she said, would last for 11 months, well after the harvest next year so Zimbabwe remains self-sufficient in summer grains, despite the eratic rains last season.

“Government is pleased that increased traditional grains intake by Masvingo and Matabeleland North GMB depots bear testimony to the ongoing success of climate-proofing efforts encompassing targeted distribution of seed varieties according to agro-ecological zones in order to ensure food security. In general, the grain situation shows that the country is food secure,” Minister Nzenza said.

On preparations for the summer cropping season that is jsut starting, the Minister said the country was experiencing an early rainy season and hence most areas were expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall between this month and January 2023.

Distribution of farming inputs was already underway to ensure farmers can plant early.

“Inputs distribution, registration, mobilisation and training of farmers are in progress. Planting has commenced in some areas, and concerns over the prices of inputs, especially fertiliser, are being looked into. The objective for the 2022-2023 summer production season remains to achieve food, stockfeed and oilseed self-sufficiency from a total of 3 950 283

hectares output, which are expected to yield a total of 4 928 260 tonnes for all crops,” said Minister Nzenza.

The major sources of funds for the production of the major crops were the Climate Proofed Presidential Inputs Support Programme, known as Pfumvudza/Intwasa, the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA), the private sector, and self-financing.

Distribution of inputs to farmers under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme is expected to be complete by the end of this month. These farmers are easily the largest group of producers in terms of numbers, and need the largest logistical effort to get inputs to their small farms.

“To date, 54 percent of the maize seed has been received by GMB depots of which 68 percent has been distributed to beneficiaries, while 47 percent of the received traditional grains seed has been distributed. Seventy-nine percent of the basal and top-dressing fertilisers received have been distributed. Adequate transport for movement of all inputs to wards has been mobilised,” Minister Nzenza said.

There has been an increase in the area being put under the Pfumvudza programme as more farmers take up the climate proofed model which has yielded results.

So far, 4 610 636 Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots have been prepared, a marked increase from last season’s 2 304 417 plots. A total of 2 707 064 farmers have been trained, compared to 2 071 627 during the previous season.

Minister Nzenza said incidents of corruption and violence at input distribution points were under investigation while the composition of distribution committees had been expanded and security enhanced at the centres to prevent such practices.

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