Zimbabwe: Wheat Farmers Await Bank Loan Modalities

Farmers are waiting for further guidance from authorities following the temporary suspension of lending by banks to both Government and the private sector, as they reckon agriculture needs to be exempted if all farmers are to plant their winter wheat.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya yesterday said the industry was still waiting for finer details on which sectors are exempted from the directive as the current national drive to upscale wheat production to ensure self-sufficiency was paramount.

While most farmers who borrow have already had their loans, some are still waiting for a bank officer to visit their farm and sign them off.

Mr Zakariya noted that some farmers were self-financing and that usually meant they had to borrow some of the money they needed for seed, fertiliser, power and water charges, with CBZ and AFC Holdings being the main lenders.

"Although most of the farmers have already accessed loans and are busy planting wheat, there are some who still have their loan applications under consideration as there were some delays by banks to undertake farm visits."

On progress on achieving the planned winter wheat target, Mr Zakariya highlighted that farmers were still busy planting and they will be able to assess the success in two to three weeks.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said farmers were busy planting and the actual wheat hectarage could be known towards end of May.

On the impact of suspension of bank lending, Dr Makombe highlighted that issues of lending were confidential between the bank and individual farmer, but because of its seasonal peculiarity, agriculture could not move forward without loans.

He said farmers were waiting for finer details from Government on how the policy would be implemented.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union president Mrs Monica Chinamasa said some farmers had not yet received winter wheat loans from banks, compounded with May 15 being the practical deadline for planting for optimal yields.

The optimum planting dates for wheat are from the last week of April (in the Lowveld) to end of May, though the highest yields are obtained when establishment is done within the first two weeks of May.

Planting on time enables farmers to avoid frost conditions during critical growth stages of wheat like flowering, and to avoid high disease and pest pressure during the months of August and September when the crop is in post grain filling.

Early planting also allows the tillering stage to coincide with low temperatures during the month of June.

Low temperatures and even frost at this stage promotes tillering.

Observing the planting window allows farmers to harvest their crop before the start of the next rainy season as rain induces sprouting in wheat, thereby reducing baking quality.

As the nation embarks on import substitution, increased local production of wheat will result in foreign currency savings, create employment directly at farm level and indirectly upstream and downstream industries such as milling, baking and food outlets.

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