Quelea birds gobble wheat crop

Ngoni Chanakira

The quelea bird, coming at a time when bread has become unaffordable, is now threatening the country’s poorwheat crop.



if”>While government insists that the food situation is not threatened by the withdrawal of the donor community due to political differences with Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday confirmed that the quelea bird was now threatening wheat.

Insiders said the ministry had run out of the chemical to kill the birds that can destroy thousands of hectares of wheat in minutes.

Zimbabwe’s wheat crop, like all other commodities, has been declining annually.

In 2000 the country produced 45 000 hectares of wheat, while in 2001 it produced 56 000 hectares – the largest crop so far.

In 2002 the country produced 25 000 hectares of wheat and last year Zimbabwe produced a paltry 10 000 hectares.

The figures were supplied by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and include A2 farmers.

Yesterday the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that it was inviting interested companies to urgently procure 3 000 litres of fenthion chemical or a suitable alternative for the control of quelea birds, which it said had begun to damage the wheat crop.

A senior ministry official told businessdigest that government was prepared to pay the business executives on delivery in Zimbabwe dollars for the chemical.

Companies, especially indigenous ones, are now jostling for the lucrative tender which has been labeled “top priority” by the cash-strapped government in its bid to stop the birds from destroying what is already a poor harvest.

“Yes, I can confirm that we are asking companies to tender for the supply of fenthion chemical or any suitable alternative for the control of quelea birds which are destroying our wheat crop,” an official said yesterday. “We cannot allow these birds to destroy what is already a very poor crop.”

This week leading food manufacturer and distributor National Foods Ltd (Natfoods) said the limited availability of local wheat was supplemented with imports to maintain volumes.

The company said it had to go cap in hand to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for foreign currency to import wheat and avert “serious shortages of flour and thus bread”.

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