Government is targeting 350 000 tonnes of wheat in the next three years to guarantee sufficient domestic wheat supplies and to reduce reliance on imports. Zimbabwe needs about 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually but produced only 65 000 tonnes last year.
Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the country will save as much as $200 million on wheat imports if it was to meet the target. The targeted output would be the highest mark ever to be produced in this country and would surpass the highest output of 325 000 in 2001. High yields expected in the next three seasons will be driven by highly organised supply of all inputs and electricity.
"The country is targeting 350 000 tonnes of wheat output by 2020 in a bid to save much needed foreign currency into the economy. We expect this year's output to be around 160 000 tonnes and 200 000 tonnes by next year. In 2019 we anticipate the target to improve by 50 000 tonnes to 250 000 tonnes and this shows a growing economy," he said.
Zimbabwe had initially projected 200 000 tonnes of wheat but due to the top dressing fertiliser and other small technicalities the output is now expected to be 160 000 tonnes. Farmers with the early planted crop had encountered quelea birds, but Government has committed some funds to deal against those post-harvest losses.
The Command Agriculture programme which started this season with maize production was expanded to include winter wheat, with thousands of farmers now using irrigation facilities to augment rain-fed agriculture. Farmers were provided with all the inputs, as was the case with maize. Stop order will be used under all Command programmes, wheat included.
Upon harvesting, farmers will be expected to deliver an agreed tonnage to the Grain Marketing Board as repayment for the loan advanced to them in the form of inputs such as wheat seed, fertilisers, chemicals and tillage services.
Various farmers with irrigation infrastructure have in the past failed to grow wheat because of lack of financial resources to buy the inputs, a gap that Government has bridged through the Command winter wheat programme.
The private sector invested $100 million for this year's wheat crop. Sakunda, National Foods, Northern Farming Company, Stay Well Company and CBZ Bank have committed to supporting cultivation of winter wheat.