BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA/FREEMAN MAKOPA
GRAIN Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Tafadzwa Musarara says discussions are currently underway to secure 180 000 tonnes of wheat from alternative markets following supply chain disruptions in Eastern Europe, where war has erupted in two of the world’s biggest producers.
The world has been shaken by confrontations between Russia and Ukraine, who have been at war since February.
The conflict has had implications on global food supplies.
Ukraine and Russia supply 30% of wheat and 20% of maize to global markets, according to the World Food Programme.
GMAZ says Russia and Ukraine account for nearly 60% of wheat consumed in Zimbabwe.
“We have been following the geopolitics in the Balkan area and the Russian/Ukraine war did not come as a surprise,” Musarara told Standardbusiness.
“As a forward-looking organisation, we had secured other sources, notwithstanding the fact that the two countries which are at war are ranked number one (Russia) and number five (Ukraine) on the world wheat exporters and producers,” Musarara said.
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“We are planning to have close to 180 000 tonnes of wheat imports that should see us between now and the next harvest. This is not only a Zimbabwean situation. It is a global crisis,” Musarara said.
He said discussions to secure wheat imports were being done with several suppliers from other countries.
However, he declined to reveal them.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) has reported that disruptions to international markets related to the conflict in Ukraine had caused significant effects in Zimbabwe.
Fews Net found that maize grain, maize meal, wheat flour, and bread prices had increased by about 15% since the conflict began.
The situation has been compounded by erratic rainfall during the 2021/2022 season.
“Crop conditions in northern surplus-producing areas improved somewhat with rainfall in the second half of March,” Fews Net said in its March update.
“However, crop loss is significant nationally, with maize write-offs of more than 50% reported in some eastern, southern and western districts worst affected by recent dryness. Poor and erratic rainfall will also negatively impact water availability in these areas during the upcoming dry season,” the report said.
This comes as Zimbabwe is targeting to produce 383 000 metric tonnes (MT) of winter wheat for the 2022/23 season, up from 337 000MT achieved last year riding on increased hecterage.
Zimbabwe requires between 350 000 and 450 000 tonnes annually, but 336 000 tonnes are expected this year, according to the 2022 national budget.
The country produced 337 000MT during the 2021 winter wheat season.
In an interview with Standardbusiness, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary John Basera said the ministry was mobilising resources for the country to achieve wheat self-sufficiency.
“The 2022 winter wheat production plan is targeting at least 75 000 hectares with a view of producing over 383 000MT. Last year, the hectarage planted was at 66 435 hectares. At this level of production, the country is assured of achieving national self-sufficiency,” he said.
“Such a mammoth task will not be achieved by adopting a business-as-usual approach, as such; the ministry is mobilising resources via increased participation of the private sector. The private sector including individual farmers with their own resources, CBZ Agro-yield, AFC Land Bank and other local banks have warmed up to the idea of supporting this initiative. The government through the Presidential Input Programme is also complementing by targeting 5 500ha, while a consortium of private sector players called Food Crops Contractors Association is targeting about 23 000ha,” he said.