HomeNewsFarmers abandon wheat cropping

Farmers abandon wheat cropping


Wheat farmers across the country are switching to other crops because of production challenges.
Some of the farmers said this year could be the worst and urged the government to set aside a budget for wheat importation.

“Everything is in disarray. As you know, winter wheat relies heavily on irrigation and with constant power cuts experienced in the country, most farmers have shelved wheat production this year,” said Elpheus Muhondo, a commercial farmer.

Another farmer, Twoboy Muchawaya said issues related to interest rates have also rendered wheat production unprofitable.

“We cannot access the inputs on time and in other cases, companies, which used to fund us, are now charging exorbitant interests so wheat production is no longer a viable business,” he said.

“Most farmers are now turning to tobacco because of its favourable price on the market.”

Patches of land which used to be wheat greenbelts in Mashonaland West have been reduced to grazing land with the bulk of irrigation equipment having either been removed, destroyed or vandalised.

“We no longer have the irrigation equipment because thieves stole it. We also heard that Zesa is planning to take its transformer because we no longer use it,” Muchawaya said.

He added that farmers cannot plough without guaranteed water and electricity.

In some parts of the country, farmers had adequate water to irrigate their crops, but failed to do so because they had either been disconnected or there were prolonged power cuts.

The winter cropping season normally begins between April and June and indications are that the country has failed to meet the projected hectares to be put under wheat.

More than 26 000 hectares of land was supposed to be used for winter wheat this year.

Zimbabwe requires 450 000 tonnes of wheat every year with the government targeting to produce 75 000 tonnes from leaving a deficit of 375 000 tonnes.

A researcher at the Institute of Agricultural Development Vivian Zvareva said farmers should have a good attitude and reputation so that banks can give them loans.

“Farmers in the country have shown a bad reputation of defaulting on loans extended to them by banks and the goodwill and trust between the two has been eroded,” she said.

According to the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), only $350 million is expected to flow into agriculture this season.

Over the last decade, local producers have managed to produce up to 26 000 metric tonnes from about 65 000 hectares, with the balance being imported.

However, over the past three seasons, production has gone down to around 12 000 hectares, yielding about 50 000 metric tonnes.

In 2010, while government set aside $26, 6 million targeting 45 000 hectares, only 12 000 hectares were actually planted.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director Paul Zakariya singled out poor planning as the main source of the dismal harvests in recent years.

He called for the convening of a sector-wide indaba to discuss and find solutions to, among things, the value of land, financing and productivity.

“In Zimbabwe, our weakest link is planning, which can best be described as pathetic.

“Contrary to the obtaining situation where plans are drawn up a few weeks before the season kicks off, we need to have our plans in place on time,” he said.

“As farmers, we are recommending an all-encompassing consultative forum with players from all relevant sectors where we will address the sticking points that have continued to weigh down progress.

“For instance, we all agree that there is need to have bankable leases to enable farmers to seek financing from private financiers.”

He said that in countries where farming was taken seriously, it was financed mainly through bank loans.

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