Farmers will soon start harvesting the winter wheat crop and for the first time in its history Zimbabwe is likely to be self-sufficient in wheat, with zero imports, and even have a small carryover stock for next year, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development secretary Dr John Basera said recently.
Speaking at the just-ended Hwedza District annual agricultural show he said the estimated harvest was around 380 000 tonnes against a national annual requirement of about 360 000 tonnes. This gives the country a surplus out of about 20 000 tonnes.
Zimbabwe started growing wheat in 1966 shortly after UDI but every year since then the local crop has been eked out with imports. But this year wheat farmers planted 78 000 hectares of the crop compared to 66 000 ha planted last year.
“This time we have a record for wheat which amounted to 78 000 ha compared to 66 000ha last year,” said Dr Basera.
“We need at least 300 combine harvesters for the harvesting of our winter wheat crop. We are ready and we are almost wrapping up our preparations for this. Currently we have over 260 combine harvesters which are functional and we are targeting to have over 300 combine harvesters this season.”
Additional combine harvesters can be imported from Belarus under the second phase of the agricultural mechanisation programme.
“For the small-scale farmers, under the Belarus phase two programme, we are importing more harvesters and by the time we reach October – when harvesting will be in full throttle – we will have over 300 available,” he said.
Dr Basera said the Government will put measures in place to ensure that harvesting is not affected by fuel shortages.
Most provinces have surpassed the target for wheat production and these include Mashonaland West and East as well as Midlands provinces.
Wheat farmers are expected to start harvesting the early planted crop next month.
In Zimbabwe, wheat is the second most important cereal crop after maize.
Last season, farmers produced wheat that covered nine months’ supply of local demand.
Global wheat markets have been affected by the conflict in Ukraine, since that country was a major exporter and Russia, another major exporter, used Black Sea ports in Russia and Ukraine for most of its exports.
Ukraine has gradually ramped up wheat shipments to African countries since 2019, owing to the rising quality of Ukrainian products. About 6,26 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat was exported to Africa in the 2021-22 marketing year (June-July), accounting for nearly 12 percent of African wheat imports.
Russia is one of the largest wheat exporters to Africa and covers about 32 percent of the continent’s wheat consumption. Russia exported about 10,8 million tonnes to Africa in 2021-22, with Egypt being the largest buyer of Russian grain at about 6 million tonnes.
The Second Republic has been working on hard to push agricultural output and farm incomes by going for self-sufficiency of most food products, since this gives the farmers guaranteed markets and ensures Zimbabwe can cope with any geo-political or global supply challenges.