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Govt rules out wheat imports

Business
WHEAT FARMING

GOVERNMENT will not import wheat and will now scrutinise imports of the cereal for the coming year owing to a bumper winter harvest this year, a senior government official has revealed.

This comes as millers have expressed concern over the quality of local wheat which they say is not good for making bakery confections.

According to the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, Russian and Ukrainian wheat accounted for nearly 60% of wheat imports used locally for self-raising flour to make confectionery products. However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early February to date, both countries have stopped wheat exports with partial exports only resuming in August leaving Zimbabwe in desperate need of wheat.

“The policy position for wheat is also that government will not be importing any wheat, we have enough,” Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement minister Anxious Masuka told journalists at the official signing ceremony between his ministry and Treasury  for a US$20 million smallholder irrigation financing injection in Harare yesterday.

“In fact, we may begin to build a small strategic reserve for wheat for the first time in the history of the country and those that import wheat will be on the basis of an import permit, demand driven, to say ‘why do you want to import when we have sufficient wheat in the country which you can purchase from the producers?’ So, that is the government policy,” he indicated.

He said the current wheat bumper harvest could possibly make the country the only one in Africa to reach self-sufficiency.

“We can ride on this winter wheat success and be able to do more for summer,” Masuka said.

The bumper wheat harvest is expected to produce 380 000 tonnes of the cereal, against the country’s annual demand of between 350 000 and 450 000 tonnes.

The Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development ministry is now planning to add 21 000 hectares to next season’s wheat hectarage, expecting even a better harvest for the cereal crop. Adding the 21 000 hectares would increase the wheat hectarage to 100 000 from a current 79 000, resulting in a projected wheat output of 400 000 tonnes.

“My expectation, therefore, is that these under 3 000 hectares, at five tonnes per hectare, mean another 15 000 metric tonnes. It means next year there will probably be 415 000 of wheat arising out of this additional hectarage,” Masuka said.

The 3 000 hectares Masuka was referring to was the land under the smallholder irrigation scheme which the US$20 million will support, wherein, approximately 2 714 hectares of agricultural land will have irrigation and benefit 4 500 households.

The US$20 million is drawn from the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) funds allocated to Zimbabwe last year.

The country received US$961 million in SDR. It is part of the US$650 billion the IMF distributed to its members.

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