BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO WHEAT growers have been urged to increase production to offset the supply deficit caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The two warring nations account for nearly 30% of global wheat supplies, with Zimbabwe importing 65% of its wheat from Russia.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe said wheat growers needed to act fast and begin preparations for the winter cropping season.
Traditionally, farmers start planting winter wheat from April 26 to May 20.
“This is now the winter wheat cropping season and those farmers who have managed to clear their fields should start planting at full throttle considering that our traditional suppliers of cereal crops are Russia and Ukraine which are at war,” Makombe said.
“Because of that war, the country might experience wheat challenges. Exports from those countries are already a challenge now. That’s why we are encouraging farmers to increase their hectarage. We are urging farmers to grow much more than they used to do in the past and increase their hectarage.”
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director Paul Zakariya said Zimbabwe had the potential to produce enough wheat to meet its annual requirements.
“Within this wheat planting window we should mobilise all potential wheat farmers to go into wheat production,” he said.
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The country spends US$100 million on wheat imports annually.
In 2019, the then minister of Industry and Commerce Mangaliso Ndhlovu said Zimbabwe required approximately 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually and was producing half of that at the time.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara yesterday told NewsDay that Zimbabwe has been importing at least 130 000 tonnes to complement local wheat harvests each year.
“Zimbabwe, like any other African country, is a net wheat importer. In the past five years, Russian wheat accounted for 65% of the wheat imported. We have been importing a minimum of 130 000 metric tonnes to complement local harvest. Russian wheat is average on protein, but more competitive on price than other wheat varieties. We, therefore, need to double our efforts in the wheat import substitution programme by increasing our hectarage for wheat farming,” Musarara said.
During the 2021 winter wheat farming season, farmers planted 66 435 hectares, the third highest since independence, which was only surpassed by the years 2004 (70 585ha) and 2005 (67 261ha).
Agricultural Technical Extension Services chief director Stancilae Tapererwa recently told a local newspaper that the country could have enough wheat if it put 75 000 hectares under the crop.
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