Winter wheat producers have warned the country could be forced to import about 90% of its wheat requirements this year as most farmers have stopped producing the crop due to incessant power cuts and late payment for crops delivered to the Grain Marketing Board.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Peace and Security Patrick Chitaka (Mutasa-Nyanga Senator) told NewsDay yesterday most farmers in Mashonaland West and Central told the committee during public hearings last week that this year’s winter wheat season could be the worst.
He said most farmers were unhappy with the increased power cuts they were experiencing, adding winter cropping needed a 24-hour uninterrupted irrigation cycle.
“The committee was told that last year wheat farmers registered plans to plant 700 000 hectares of wheat, but only managed to do 100 000 hectares. About 80% of wheat farmers said they can no longer risk growing wheat as it was difficult to do so in the current scenario,” Chitaka said. “In some areas, farmers said it was difficult for them to pay bills as farming was seasonal. They said government was failing to pay money owed to them by the Grain Marketing Board for maize deliveries and so they could not be expected to pay electricity bills on time.”
Chitaka said next week Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma would be grilled by the committee over the allegations by the farmers before the committee tabled a report in the Senate.