Mash East experiences chaotic winter wheat season

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

MARONDERA: Serious shortages of fuel, electricity and farming inputs saw this year’s winter wheat production in Mashonaland East province dropping to one of the lowest levels in recent years.

The provincial agricultural extension officer, Leonard Munamati has confirmed that the province managed to plant only 1 696 hectares of wheat in Goromonzi and 1 250 hectares in Marondera – a total of 2 946.

This is a significant drop from 2018 when more than 5 000 hectares of land were put under the winter wheat crop. The wheat crop in Zimbabwe is fully irrigated and is harvested in October.

Other traditional wheat cropping districts of Wedza, Murewa, Seke failed to plant any crop due to crippling fertiliser, chemicals, power and water shortages.

“The availability of agriculture inputs was a contributory factor. Seed might have been adequate but the opposite was true for compound D fertiliser, which is a major requirement in wheat farming,” Munamati said.

He added some farmers were also forced to ditch planting the crop due to challenges they faced in accessing combine harvesters last year.

“The issue of load shedding also made it difficult for farmers to irrigate their crops this season and as a result, yields are expected to be down as the crop was not well irrigated,” the cropping expert explained.

Munamati said the province only managed to receive 5 000 litres of diesel under the controversial government-run Command Agriculture programme.

Before the start of winter wheat production, the Grain Millers Association (GMAZ) had announced that it had managed mobilise US$80 million for inputs and machinery for the production of an estimated 150 000 tonnes of wheat across the country under the National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC).

However, nothing was heard about the facility and farmers said they were unaware of it.

Zimbabwe requires 500 000 tonnes of wheat a year and US$100 million annually for imports.

However, the country is struggling to import the product due to severe shortages of foreign currency.

The chaotic winter wheat preparations in Mashonaland East are an indication that the country will continue to rely on wheat imports as the province is one of the key wheat production areas in Zimbabwe.

There is an acute shortage of bread in Zimbabwe as wheat reserves continue to plummet.

Most major bread producers in the country have been forced to scale down operations due wheat shortages while the retail price of bread continues to increase beyond the reach of ordinary consumers.