Zimbabwe expects to attain wheat self-sufficient for first time since 2004

Zimbabwe expects to attain wheat self-sufficiency this year as the country’s agricultural sectors continue recording major recovery gains.

The country consumes about 360 000 tonnes of wheat annually, which in previous years was met by imports mainly from Ukraine, but with instabilities in Eastern Europe caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the country had to find alternatives to avert a wheat crisis.

Local Zimbabwean farmers took up the challenge and now they are reaping huge rewards and making a significant difference to the country’s food situation.

It is wheat harvesting season in Zimbabwe and the country is reaping huge rewards.

“For the first time in our country since 2004,  we have never had such a bumper harvest of wheat. We are looking at high yields. We are not yet looking at exporting but we are happy that what we are producing this year will cover more than a year of consumption. That is good. We will also have some in reserve but the issue of export is not yet discussed. We don’t need to import wheat,” states Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa.

Wheat is grown entirely under irrigation during the winter season in Zimbabwe. In 2022 more than 80 000 hectares of agricultural land was put under wheat production nationwide, with many new farmers venturing into the sector.

First-time Wheat Farmer, Elton Chiroodza, had this to say:

“It is satisfying to see that I have worked and have made money, and I have actually managed to feed people around me and the nation at large. For the future in Africa our biggest problem is hunger, so fighting hunger is really important.”

Chiroodza, who is 34 years old is among the young farmers who have helped Zimbabwe to become wheat self-sufficient. He is excited about the prospects of his chosen field.

“Our aim was to get into grain crops. We started in wither this year, 2022, and as you can see we did winter wheat crop. It’s my first time actually growing wheat crop. Being my first time, I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing but I put my energies into what I was doing and I worked with several people to help me produce something. We did a good wheat crop, I was targeting 6-7 tonnes per hector, and we managed to do 9 tonnes per hectare,” he explains.

The country expects to harvest 380 000 tonnes of wheat this year against an annual consumption of about 360 000 tonnes, generating a 200 000 tonnes surplus. This has been attributed to active private and public sector participation in the agricultural sector.

Shepard Kondo, General Manager of AFC Leasing, which is a commercial bank offering development finance, particularly in agriculture, explains the challenges new farmers face and how his organisation assists with them.

“A lot of farmers cannot afford equipment – capital equipment like combine harvesters. We come in and bridge the gap so that farmers can farm. We also have tractors that provide tillage. We have all mechanisation equipment from land preparation to harvesting, so it has made a huge impact on the farming community,” explains Kondo.

But as Zimbabwe pushes its way out of food insecurity, the new problem of veld fires faces wheat farmers.

Officials estimate that an all-inclusive 1 million hectares of land have been lost nationwide due to veld fires during this current fire season, which began on July 31. The fires have also destroyed wheat valued at close to US$800 000 in 20 separate incidents.

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