Regerai Pepukai — ZIMBABWE'S wheat output is projected to drop by 50 percent because of lack of money to rehabilitate infrastructure and rising costs involved in producing the crop.
It was initially forecast yields would drop by 29 percent.
Speaking in Masvingo this week, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Davies Marapira said the slump in wheat production the Commercial Farmers Union earlier predicted did not take into consideration small holder farmers who could no longer meet the high costs involved in wheat crop production.
Marapira said most farmers who had been into winter wheat production have been negatively affected by shortage of irrigation equipment hence the overall production is going to drop by about half from the previous season.
“We have advised those farmers who are still into the winter wheat production to make sure that they plant early and should by the end of this month have finished planting because if they plant late the crop will be affected by the rains.
"The small holder producers are the most affected as they do not have the required capital to continue producing the crop,” he said.
“The overall wheat production in the country is going to drop by about 50 percent because nearly half of the farmers who were into the production of the crop failed to make it this year because of primarily lack of irrigation equipment.
"Nearly three quarters of irrigation equipment was vandalised over the past decade and the government has not money to either buy new things or lent farmers money to buy on their own machinery,” Murapira added.
In addition the minister said high electricity and water charges were hampering efforts to increase wheat production in the country.
He said because of the high inputs costs involved farmers had naturally lost confidence in growing the crop.
A farmer, Francis Zimuto, from Masvingo east commercial farming area said this year he was no longer planting the crop because his irrigation facilities were vandalised during the government's rather chaotic land reform programme.
“New” farmers have been blamed for vandalising irrigation equipment.
“I had the best irrigation facilities in the province which I got from the former white farmer who was displaced but now all the equipment has been vandalised and there is nothing.
"I have since stopped wheat production this year because all the pipes and pumps are no more. It was like dealing with baboons because some of the equipment was vandalised while I was there, “said Zimuto.
Last year about 4000 hectares were put under wheat production nationally against the expected 2000 hectares.
An estimated 8 000 tonnes of wheat will be produced this year against the country's national wheat requirement of 260 000 tonnes.