THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) is set to plant 20 000 hectares of winter wheat to complement the 50 000 hectares targeted under command agriculture to increase output and curtail imports.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
In an interview with NewsDay, GMAZ president, Tafadzwa Musarara said the two complementary schemes will produce at least 250 000 metric tonnes of wheat per annum, a positive development towards achieving substastatial import substitution of wheat imports.
He said since January 2015 to date, the country has spent more than $310 million on wheat imports.
Musarara said it was imperative for every country to ensure a minimum production of at least 70% of its staple food, such as wheat in the case of Zimbabwe.
He said there was need for the government to ban imports of imported wheat flour to grow the local industry.
“However, for the two schemes to flourish, there is need to ban imports of imported wheat flour from other countries in order to provide the entire market space to local millers,” Musarara said.
According to official statistics, Zimbabwe consumes between 400 000 tonnes and 450 000 tonnes of wheat annually.
At its peak, wheat production stood at 325 000 tonnes in 2001, but the crop started declining in 2002 when output tumbled to 150 000 tonnes.
In his 2017 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa removed the importation of wheat from the open general import licence to boost local production on the back of a declining milling industry.
Chinamasa said despite support measures provided by the government to the milling industry, the number of producers shrunk to 37 in 2016 from 368 in 2007 due to competition from wheat flour imported from the region under bilateral trade arrangements.
He proposed to amend bilateral rules of origin on flour, so that preferential treatment was granted to flour milled from wheat grown in the country of export and proposed to remove wheat flour from the open general import licence with effect from January 1, 2017.