By Bulawayo Correspondent
MOST wheat farmers are struggling to harvest their crop owing to a serious shortage of combine harvesters and labour in Matabeleland North province.
There are already strong fears that some of the crop might be destroyed by rains which are expected any time from now if the challenges are not addressed.
Southern African climate experts have forecast normal to above normal rainfall during the coming 2021 -2022 cropping season over the SADC region.
Farmers who spoke to NewZimbabwe.Com over the weekend expressed concern over the shortage of combine harvesters and labour in the area.
“Normally by the 1st of September, farmers would have started harvesting the crop but as I speak to you most farmers have not yet started harvesting they cannot afford to hire the combine harvesters,” said a Umguza new farmer.
The worker said in the past, the farmers used to hire casual workers from surrounding farming areas but most of the workers have now gone into gold panning which is more rewarding than wheat harvesting.
“Most of the casual workers which we used to depend on as laborers have now gone into gold panning. Because of the government’s poor producer price, most farmers are unable to pay competitive rates to the workers. We are hoping the rains will delay a bit because if it rains now it will be a disaster,” said Never Ncube a wheat farmer in the same area.
The farmers said they have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with some senior Zanu PF officials who have benefited from the government ‘s farm mechanization programme.
“We were hoping that some of our leaders who received Combine Harvesters under various government intervention programmes might assist us with the equipment but it seems they are using the equipment for themselves. What is more worrying is that their hiring rates are above than those charged by a local white farmer,” said another farmer.
The farmers are also anxiously waiting for the government to announce the new producer price of the crop.
At least 62 000 hectares of wheat has been planted this year. Zimbabwe requires about 360 000 tonnes of wheat each year, mainly for flour and bread.