Wheat production has been rising fast in Zimbabwe and farmers in Matabeleland provinces are contributing immensely to a promising season.
Across the country, wheat farmers have started harvesting with the country standing on the threshold of yet another successful season.
At least 340 000 tonnes expected to be harvested this year.
The country recorded its highest ever single wheat harvest in 1990 with 325 000 tonnes of the cereal being realised.
Zimbabwe needs at least 360 000 tonnes of wheat annually, with the projected 340 000 tonnes expected to reduce the import bill.
In 2019 farmers produced 220 000 tonnes of wheat from 45 000 hectares but this winter over 320 000 tonnes of the cereal are expected from the 66 400 hectares put under the crop.
If the country meets its target of 340 000 tonnes, it means there would be enough for its requirements for the first time since commercial wheat farming started in the 1960s.
The minimum producer prices for local wheat is $55 517,69 a tonne for ordinary grade and $66 621,22 a tonne for premium grade. Farmers in Matabeleland provinces are expected to cash in on the cereal.
A Chronicle news crew visited two wheat fields where winter harvesting is underway.
At Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme, which is managed by the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) harvesting started on Tuesday with the exercise set to be finalised on October 31.
Farmers are expecting to harvest about 900 tonnes from 180 hectares of planted wheat.
The Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme has transformed subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation in line with Vision 2030.
President Mnangagwa last month launched the Arda Vision 2030 accelerator model programme at Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme meant to stimulate rural industrialisation through agricultural development in line with Vision 2030, which is anchored on driving the country’s economy into an upper-middle-income.
Under the model, each district across the country will have 200 hectares under irrigation with the beneficiaries being locals.
ARDA chief executive officer Mr Tinotenda Mhiko said harvesting will be concluded this month end.
Mr Mhiko said the winter wheat farming programme was funded under the Presidential Input Scheme and part of it was through the Government-guaranteed CBZ Agro Yield programme.
“Although farmers planted the wheat on different dates, the harvest is now being done at same time because Lupane has high heat units which quickens the ripening pace of the crop. So far, we harvested 40 tonnes and our average yields are five tonnes per hectare,” he said.
The news crew also visited Khami Prison Farm yesterday and some inmates were busy separating the wheat from the chaff and straw while others were willowing the cereal.
The farm, which is owned by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) which is situated on the outskirts of Bulawayo, has adopted an enviable integrated farming model which is providing supplementary feeding for about 4 000 inmates in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province’s five prisons.
Out of the 61 hectares for crop production, 16 hectares of land is under irrigation. The farm uses drip and overhead irrigation.
Khami Prison’s assistant farm manager Assistant Principal Correctional Officer (Apco) Shumirai Mazvuma said they planted five hectares of wheat under the Command Agriculture scheme and are expecting to harvest between 3,5 and 4 tonnes per hectare, which translates to more than 15 tonnes in total.
“For now, we are still in the process of threshing and willowing the wheat after which we will then deliver the grain to GMB within the next seven days or so,” said Apco Mazvuma. She said they started harvesting the wheat last week.
“We planted five hectares of winter wheat under the Presidential Input Scheme in May and we have started harvesting. Our projected harvest is between 3,5 to 4 tonnes per hectares, which will all be delivered to Grain Marketing Board,” she said.
“Our inmates are the ones providing labour as part of our rehabilitative programme so that even after finishing their terms, they will still be able to use those skills productively.”
Matabeleland North agronomist Ms Zenzele Ndlovu said over 1 000 hectares of land categorised under the Presidential Winter Wheat Scheme, Government-guaranteed CBZ Agro Yield programme and self-financing farmers was put under winter wheat in the province.
She said out of a total 501,5 hectares of area harvested so far, 1 549, tonnes have been delivered to GMB.
Matabeleland South acting provincial Agritex officer Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said they are expecting to harvest about 400 tonnes from 1 956 hectares of planted wheat.
“In terms of delivery to GMB, we are looking at 65 percent because you cannot rule out the fact that some of the farmers, especially small holder farmers, will need to keep some cereals for food security. We are expecting to harvest at least 5 tonnes per hectares out of 1 956 hectares of planted wheat,” he said.
In her recent post-Cabinet briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said at least 65 percent of the harvested wheat is expected by the end of this month.
The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has already designated 18 intake depots for collecting wheat. To control the reported cases of damage to wheat by quelea birds the necessary chemical has now been received from Kenya and China.
Government has set a target of 85 000ha of land to be put under wheat. Production of the crop was supported from three fronts with 60 000ha being produced through the Government guaranteed CBZ Agro Yield programme, 15 000ha by private contractors and 10 000ha through the Presidential Winter Wheat Scheme.
The Presidential Inputs Scheme availed seed, fertilisers and chemicals on credit against delivery of the crop with farmers expected to pay for electricity and labour.
The arrangement will enable those under-resourced, but interested farmers to participate in the noble cause of making the country self-sufficient as far as its wheat requirements are concerned.