GOVERNMENT’S efforts to boost agricultural production through Operation Maguta are failing as the area put under winter wheat over the past five s
easons continues to shrink.
This has caused serious wheat shortfalls.
In the current cropping season, only an estimated 50 000 hectares, instead of more than 85 000 hectares that are normally put under irrigated winter wheat, were planted due to continued uncertainty in the agricultural sector, limited seeds and shortage of fertilisers.
Information to hand shows that the few remaining white commercial farmers have planted around 10 000 hectares, newly-resettled farmers 20 000 hectares and the remainder by the army under Operation Maguta.
Commercial Farmers Union crops section spokesman, George Hutchison, said his members planted between 10 000 and 15 000 hectares, and an average yield of four tonnes from each hectare were expected.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) past president, Thomas Nherera, said an estimated 60 000 hectares were put under winter crop this year and the harvest would be more than 200 000 tonnes.
“Too low temperatures have damaged a crop which was at tasselling stage in the Midlands area,” Nherera said. “However, the low temperatures were good for the late planted crop.”
Zimbabwe requires 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually plus 80 000 tonnes of hard wheat to mix with the local product. Grisling wheat has always been imported.
Agricultural experts said Zimbabwe would harvest about 135 000 tonnes of wheat, up from last year’s 120 000 tonnes. This was however still short as it would only be enough to cover close to 34% of the country’s national requirement.
They said lack of irrigation facilities following vandalism and theft of the equipment over the past five years of the chaotic land reform programme had drastically reduced the area that could be irrigated.
Winter wheat is an all-out irrigation crop, so under the prevailing conditions where there is a critical shortage of equipment, yields would be reduced, the experts said.
Under optimum conditions with use of state-of-the-art irrigation facilities, six tonnes of wheat can be produced from a hectare.