Bread shortages set to worsen

Staff Writer

BREAD shortages are set to worsen next year as the country’s winter wheat and barley production continue to falter, it has been learnt.



tica, sans-serif”>Figures obtained by the Zimbabwe Independent at the close of this year’s winter planting period show that a record low hectarage has been put under wheat.


A Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) survey shows that only 4 500 hectares have been put under wheat in the commercial farming sector. The figure is a mere 6% of the area that used to be planted.


The survey shows that an estimated 6 500 hectares of barley have also been planted this year, a 50% drop from the plus or minus 12 000 hectares normally planted each year.


Commercial farmers used to put between 65 000 and 80 000 hectares of land under winter crop, producing up to 280 000 tonnes of wheat.


“Irrigation schemes for winter cereals were 65 000 hectares but these have been looted and damaged and we estimate that only 15 000 hectares are still operational,” the CFU said.


“As poverty and unemployment increase, theft of assets increases, making it difficult for farmers to continue their operations.”


The CFU has forecast this year’s winter crop at around 8% of annual average because of continued vandalism and looting of equipment on farms.


An estimated 22 500 tonnes of wheat and 26 000 tonnes of barley are expected from the commercial farming sector.


Local demand of about 400 000-500 000 tonnes and the deficit used to be met through imports of gristing wheat used to blend the local product to get high quality flour.


“New farmers are not achieving desired production levels due to lack of knowledge, skills and finance. They do not have the capacity to match production levels of displaced commercial farmers,” said the CFU.


The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) said the number of their members entering winter crop production had increased since the beginning of the land reform programme.


“Though we are in the process of compiling data on the number of farmers who planted wheat this year, there is clear evidence that the hectarage has increased,” said an official at the ZFU.


An agricultural analyst said the increase in hectarage planted by new farmers would not make much difference to the food security situation because of their small portions.


“ZFU members, though many, grow very little wheat, mostly for household consumption,” the analyst said.


“The main drawback faced by subsistence farmers is lack of equipment, finance and skills to produce for commercial purposes.”


The majority of the crop is irrigated using overhead sprinkler systems, though a small amount is irrigated using flood, and centre-pivots. Major production areas are along the major water courses in Mashonaland, Makonde and mid-Save areas.

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