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Zimbabwe braces for major wheat shortage

Posted on Wednesday, 6 August 2014 10:08

This is one of the lowest tonnages ever produced by the southern African country and it comes against a demand of at least 450,000 tonnes.

Wheat production requires consistent power supply for irrigation

Last year, 24,700 tonnes of wheat was harvested, a far cry from production levels of 325,000 tonnes registered prior to the chaotic land reform programme in 2000.

For the 2014 winter season, farmers planted 6,000 hectares of wheat, compared to 10 000 hectares the previous year.

At peak, about 65,000 hectares of wheat were planted.

The 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes expected means Zimbabwe would have to import at least 440,000 tonnes to meet the shortfall in national demand, forking out close to $220 million for wheat imports at an import parity price of $468 to $500 per tonne.

Agricultural expert, Charles Dhewa recently said farmers have ditched cultivating and now focusing on horticulture due to high costs involved in wheat production.

“Wheat production requires consistent power supply for irrigation,” he explained. “Kariba, our main source of power, has not been able to produce enough power and the power station is always undergoing renovations.

“Most of the farmers who used to produce wheat have now resorted to horticulture.

“South Africa and other countries are actually dumping wheat flour in Zimbabwe, our porous borders are actually exacerbating this situation.”

Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice-president, Berean Mukwende, claims that production costs were as high as $2,000 per hectare in certain areas, meaning farmers would need to increase their yield per hectare to six or seven tonnes, instead of the current three to four tonnes, in order to be profitable.

Wheat production is estimated to have declined from 33,700 tonnes in 2012, to about 24,700 tonnes in 2013.

Local millers said Zimbabwe consumes more than a million loaves of bread daily and needs at least 25,000 tonnes of wheat monthly.

Wheat farmers require at least $764,24 to produce 2,5 tonnes of wheat per hectare, and $1,591 for a yield of 5,5 tonnes per hectare.

While the bread price has remained unchanged at $1 per loaf since the country adopted the US dollar as its currency in 2009, bakers have been faced with escalating operating costs, particularly of locally-sourced raw materials.

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