Soldiers could have deprived govt of 1 200t of wheat

Augustine Mukaro


GOVERNMENT could have lost close to 1 200 tonnes of wheat worth almost $260 million after soldiers running the Operation Maguta programme ploughed into the ground 200 hectares of late planted winter wheat to p

ave way for a summer maize crop at Hunyani farm near Chinhoyi.


Farming sources in the Chinhoyi area said the army destroyed 200 hectares of wheat they had planted in August after realising that the crop would not mature before the onset of the rains. They decided to prepare the field to plant maize.


Wheat is normally planted before the end of May and must be harvested before the onset of the rains to avoid losses. The Grain Marketing Board is buying a tonne of wheat for $217 million. It costs about $450 000 to grow a hectare of the crop.


The farm, which was allocated to Chinhoyi University during the land reform programme, was taken over by the army last year at the launch of Operation Maguta.


“Wheat at Hunyani farm was planted in August nearly two months after the expected planting date,” a source from Chinhoyi said. “Wheat is a five-month crop so planting it in August means harvesting it in January. From the onset prospects of a maximum yield were very low primarily because of the late planting, and signs of early rains forced them to disc in the crop.”


Chinhoyi University spokesman Musekiwa Tapera did not deny the development but referred all questions pertaining to farm operations to the army.


“I cannot comment on developments at the farm because the army is running it under Operation Maguta,” Tapera said.


Sources said last week on Thursday and Friday tractors could be seen ploughing through the knee-high wheat crop. The army planted 200 hectares of wheat in August and could have planted up to 400 hectares if Arex officials had not advised against the move on the basis of late planting.


Surplus wheat seed which they intended to plant on the extra 200 hectares is still stashed at the farm workshop, a source said.


If the area had been planted on time, an estimated 1 200 tonnes could have been harvested with an average yield of six tonnes per hectare.