Wheat production continues to decline

HARARE - Zimbabwe has produced close to 62 000 metric tonnes of wheat against an annual requirement of 400 000 metric tonnes due to massive power outages and lack of funding, a senior government official has said.

This has resulted in the country forking out close to $169 million importing wheat to cover the 338 000 metric tonnes shortfall at an import parity price of $468 to $500 per tonne.

Deputy Agriculture minister Davison Marapira yesterday told delegates at the wheat to bread value chain conference in the capital that there has been a steady decline in the area put under wheat production since 2008.

“This is largely attributed to intermittent power outages, high cost of production and inadequate financial resources,” he said, adding that an average area of 16 342 hectares has been planted over the past seven years.

This comes as Zimbabwe farmers last year put 14 789 hectares under wheat.

According to national statistics, about a decade ago, local producers used to harvest up to 260 000 tonnes from about 65 000 hectares, with the balance of 40 000 tonnes being imported.

In 2012, the hectarage under wheat production shrunk to only 4 000 hectares, which yielded 16 000 tonnes.

Local millers said Zimbabwe consumes more than a million loaves of bread daily and needs at least 25 000 tonnes of wheat monthly.

Wheat farmers require at least $764,24 to produce 2,5 tonnes of wheat per hectare, and $1 591 for a yield of 5,5 tonnes per hectare.

While the bread price has remained unchanged at $1 per loaf since the country adopted the US dollar as its currency in 2009, bakers have been faced with escalating operating costs, particularly of locally-sourced raw materials.

Marapira said government recognises the importance of all value chain actors in agriculture and was keen to support the participation of private actors in the agribusiness industry.

“It is in this view that, the value chain approach enhances accountability, responsibility, and transparency.

“Industries must not only focus on profits but total benefits realised from aggregate economic growth, for example, employment creation and contribution to GDP.”

Millers Association of Zimbabwe official Chris Rwodzi said his organisation was working on strategies to improve its products.

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