Zimbabwe: Government Banks On Command Wheat Initiative As Bread Crisis Persists

GOVERNMENT is encouraging farmers to register for this year's Command Agriculture initiative, as it moves to boost wheat amounts whose shortage is already bleeding the country's foreign currency coffers.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a post-Cabinet media briefing in Harare, Tuesday that government had set aside some 77,000 hectares of land for wheat farming under Command Agriculture while more had been earmarked for private sector players.

"77,000 hectares are already contracted under Command Agriculture and the private sector is subcontracting more hectarege.

"That figure can increase given that we are at the beginning of the season and more farmers can register. Wheat can be planted all the way to the end of May," said Mutsvangwa.

Command Agriculture is a government farming scheme meant to ensure grain availability and self-sufficiency introduced at the end of 2016.

The initiative has however failed to protect consumers of grain as prices of bread and mealie meal have continued to skyrocket.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has watched the price of bread rise from RTGS$0.90 in 2017 to the current RTGS$3.50 a period of less than two years.

The continuing shortage of foreign currency and inflationary pressures have also exacerbated an already desperate situation.

Mutsvangwa added: "All critical inputs for the wheat production programme are now in place."

Zimbabwe does not produce wheat of the quality required to produce bread but can be used for confectionaries.

Results of previous Command Agriculture initiatives related to wheat have not been publicised yet with reports that more farmers who received loans under the scheme are yet to pay the money back.

The RBZ has been forced to source and supply foreign currency for the importation of wheat by mainly the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe over the past year amid reports the facility has been abused.

Parliament has been trying to probe the issue in the past few weeks.

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