ZIMBABWE risks missing its bumper winter wheat harvest target due to early summer rains which are pounding most parts of the country.
The rains could seriously affect wheat quality.
This comes as millers have also expressed concern over the quality of local wheat which they say is not good for baking confectioneries.
Only 35% of winter wheat has been harvested.
Agricultural Rural Development Services chief director Obert Jiri urged farmers to speed up winter wheat harvesting before the rains affect the quality of the crop.
“There is no advantage of keeping winter wheat in the fields because its quality will be reduced. In fact, it will not become wheat if rains fall on it. So, we expect wheat farmers to really expedite harvesting because all the wheat in the country is now dry. At the moment there are lighter rains, but if rains persist, this will definitely affect the quality of the wheat,” Jiri said.
“So we are appealing for every combine harvester in the country to be deployed and mobilised for wheat harvesting. We are at about 30%-35% in terms of our wheat harvesting. We have so far harvested 29 000 hectares out of 137 000 hectares out there. Because of rains, we expect harvesting to be fast so that we can move into the summer planting season without incurring any major losses,” he said.
Jiri said there was huge demand for combine harvesters, which meant if wheat farmers take long to harvest the current crop; they would be late in terms of planting the summer crop.
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Recently, Agriculture ministry secretary John Bhasera declared that the country was not facing imminent hunger. He said a surplus of over 100 000 tonnes of wheat and 500 000 tonnes of grains are expected.
“We are food secure and our grains are sufficient on account of our last bumper harvest season. We have some reserves of about 500 000 tonnes. This year, we are projecting about 1,8 million tonnes of grain, so if you add the two, we have 2,3 million tonnes. Our total annual requirement is 2,2 million tonnes, leaving a surplus of 107 000 specific tonnes of grain.”
Senate president Mabel Chinomona, who also planted wheat this year, said: “We are now self-sufficient in terms of wheat. So we encourage the government to make sure that winter wheat is harvested across the country to avoid losses. We have enough wheat, but it just needs to be harvested on time. Yes we experienced rains, but it was not that serious.”