Govt abandons winter wheat farmers

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

MARONDERA: Most winter wheat farmers in Mashonaland East province have failed to plant the crop due to government’s failure to provide promised inputs, amid reports that Zimbabwe only has a month of wheat supplies in stock.

A number of farmers, who recently spoke to the on condition of anonymity, accused the government of abandoning them by failing to provide the required inputs including fuel through the Command Wheat Programme.

The deadline for planting wheat this year was May 31, but most farmers said although they had registered with the Ministry of Agriculture to grow the crop, they did not receive the promised inputs.

The farmers said due to ever increasing prices of inputs especially fertilisers, fuel and electricity, they were unable to plant the crop on their own.

“We have been planting wheat through the Command Agriculture programme for the past three years, but this year, we failed to get the required inputs although we had registered with the ministry as required,” said one Marondera farmer.

Another farmer said most registered farmers had failed to plant this winter season due to unavailability of the traditional government subsidies.

“It is impossible for us to grow the crop without government support as we cannot afford the high prices of inputs especially fertilisers, pesticides and fuel,” he said.

Recently, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) claimed it had also mobilised US$80 million for inputs and machinery for production of at least 150 000 tonnes of wheat across the country under the National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC). However, the farmers said they were unaware of the facility.

Zimbabwe requires 500 000 tonnes of wheat a year and US$100 million annually for imports. However, the country is struggling to import it due to severe shortages of foreign currency.

GMAZ public relations manager, Garikai Chaunza said he was not prepared to talk on this year’s winter wheat preparations before referring further questions to government.

However, repeated efforts to get a comment from Mashonaland East Agriculture Ministry officials were unsuccessful as they said they were not allowed to speak to the media.

The bulk of wheat in Mashonaland East is planted in Marondera, Macheke, Goromonzi and Beatrice districts.