THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has slammed the government for spending US$27 million dollars on wheat imports while failing to fund local production of the crop.
In April this year, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and his Finance counterpart Tendai Biti pledged to release US$20 million to help farmers acquire inputs for the winter wheat crop but the facility was never made available.
GMAZ chairman Tafadzwa Musarara said the country had imported 45.1 million tonnes of wheat in the first five months of the year.
"This means that of the US$27 million remitted outside the country, US$18 million benefited respective foreign wheat farmers," he said.
"This flies in the face of government's failure to raise US$20 million for the 2012 winter wheat season," he said.
The government is importing wheat from Asian countries, Russia, Turkey and Mozambique.
Wheat production is at its lowest as the government and agriculture stakeholders continue to fail to put in place effective plans to boost production of the cereal.
High production costs coupled with failure by farmers to access agricultural inputs and shortage of power for irrigation continue to present obstacles for wheat producers.
The government had set a target of 26,000 hectares for wheat this season but this has most likely not been met, with estimates that land planted might be around 10,000 hectares.
Last season only 14,100 hectares were planted against a target of 70,000 hectares, with only 41,000 tonnes of the crop being harvested when the country requires 400,000 tonnes annually.
The government is still allowing duty free importation of wheat to address shortages due to failure to produce adequate quantities.
GMAZ argues that continued free importation is stifling local production of the crop as there was no incentive for farmers when imports were coming in cheaper.