By Leopold Munhende | Chief Correspondent
GOVERNMENT sanctioned flour imports have dampened the current wheat harvesting season resulting in plummeting of local wheat prices to a record low.
Local wheat farmers who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com expressed regret for having participated in the 2023 winter wheat farming season claiming they now face heavy losses.
Prices have gone down as low as US$300 per tonne, just above half of the US$520 promised by the government.
Zimbabwe is expecting a historic 400,000 tonnes, the highest yield since commencement of wheat farming in the country.
A letter dated November 6, to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) from the Agriculture Ministry gleaned by NewZimbabwe.com directed the regulatory board to continue facilitating import of wheat flour and maize meal.
“The Ministry hereby advises that all running permits for maize meal and wheat flour will expire on the 30th of November 2023 except for Innscor and Greens Supermarket which expires on the 31st of December 2023 for both import permits,” reads the letter.
“You are therefore kindly requested to facilitate the movement of the maize meal and wheat flour consignments covered within this period.”
A bumper harvest of the cereal last farming season saw the government putting a stop to flour and wheat imports, with Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka declaring Zimbabwe had enough to be self-sustaining.
“The policy position for wheat is also that government will not be importing any wheat, we have enough,” said Anxious after last season.
A move in March to reopen borders for imports of the cereal had a heavy knock on millers who scaled down while a number reportedly shut down.
As a result, by-products of milling that are used for stock feed production have become scarce with the country currently having a shortage of 20,000 tonnes, according to Agricultural Economists who spoke to this publication.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) Chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara said the continued imports were affecting local production and crowding out Zimbabwean millers.
“The local flour market continues to be dominated by foreign wheat, our members have been crowded out. This is affecting the off-take of local wheat,” said Musarara.
“Admittedly, foreign flour is cheaper than local, if we are to match the pricing of imported flour, we need to also import cheaper wheat and that is not sustainable.
“We support the thrust by government to grow our own wheat as it guarantees national food self-sufficiency. Bakers in South Africa, especially those based in Polokwane can supply bread to the whole country, but government barred that in order to protect local bakers. All players in the wheat value chain must be protected.”