Sudan: Bumper Wheat Crop Hoped to Encourage More Farming Effort Next Season

Government officials and farmers are upbeat about this year's bumper wheat crop in the central and northern irrigated plantations of the country. Travelers along those areas would see expanses of yellow wheat stalks shooting up in the horizon.

In official estimates 750,000 acres were grown with wheat, 420,000 of them in the Gezira scheme south of Khartoum. The rest were cultivated in the White Nile district west of the Gezira, Sinnar south of Gezira, Kassala in the East, Nahr Alneel and Northern states in the mid and the far north of the country.

In all those areas the framers say they expect high yields in other winter season crops, namely legumes, vegetables (including potatoes), spices and broad beans. The latter is an important part of the country's meal. It is consumed with bread in the breakfast and supper meals around the country.

In most areas harvesting is about to finish, with the Agricultural Bank of Sudan ready with cash to buy the crop from the farmers.

By some estimates, this year's crop may cut the wheat import bill by 50 percent (Sudan annual consumption of wheat is around 2 million tons). But as a result of scarcity of foreign currency needed to import wheat, bread shortage has been witnessed time and again. The mass protests that culminated in toppling Omar Bashir regime in April 2019 were triggered by such bread shortage.

Farmers attribute the high yield per acre to the cold weather and to the absence of pests this season.

Another blessing was that many farmers had adhered to the technological packages advised by agronomists.

Some farmers who carefully followed the formulae set by the agricultural extension workers had scored an amazingly high production. For instance a farmer in the South of the Gezira district has announced a crop of 32 sacks per acre. Some few other farmers in the Gezira scheme said they produced 18-20 sacks per acre.

An encouraging factor in this crop season was the Government's interaction with and encouragement of the wheat producers.

Initially the Government promised to buy a 100- kilogram- sack of wheat from the farmers at 2500 pounds. But later on this sum was raised to 3500 pounds upon the request of the farmers.

The government coupled this with formation of a higher committee tasked with resolving any problems facing wheat harvest. The committee was able to handle the fuel shortage and jute bags scarcity farmers initially faced at the beginning of the harvest season.

Moreover, the general intelligence organ deployed hundreds of its staff specialized in economic and agricultural security since the beginning of April in the wheat farming areas. This was aimed to curb smuggling and unlawful purchase of produce in addition to overseeing transportation and storage operations.

The 3500 pound-price per bag of wheat set by the government is higher by 1000 pounds from the global wheat price. The government has said the increment is meant to encourage the farmers for future cultivation of wheat. "PM Abdalla Hamdok is investing in the future," commented an economist on this incentive for the farmers.

May be the farmers in the Gezira scheme have received the message correctly. Once the wheat harvest was finished, the farmers in some parts of the Gezira scheme started preparations for the summer farming season.

In the summer season the farmers in the Gezira scheme and the other irrigated schemes grow cotton, groundnuts and sorghum.

This season farmers societies say will grow more of the cash-crop, the soya beans, after groups of agricultural extension workers showed them the way in pilot farms.

For its part, the Ministry of Agriculture said in early May it had prepared all the inputs of the summer farming season.

For his part, Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said dried all the Gezira Scheme major and tributary canals for earthmoving work to begin in preparation for the summer farming season that begins in mid-June and early July. He said his Ministry was to increase the irrigated area in the irrigated schemes by 50 percent this summer season. He said special tribunals were set in Wad Medani, Alqurashi 24 and Hassaheesa to try farmers who illegally divert irrigation water from the authorized plantations to their own farms.

As regards the rain-fed farming sector, the Minister of Agriculture said they planned to expand the cultivated area to 60 million acres. The rain-fed framing sector used to cultivate around 35 million acres in the central, eastern and western parts of the country. The farming communities therein produce sorghum, sesame, groundnuts, millet, cotton and legumes.

It remains to be seen how the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Bank of Sudan are prepared for the rain-fed season that begins in early June in some parts of the country.

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