Good news on the wheat front

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - NEWS - Sharon Mun­jen­jema

ZIM­BABWE is pro­jected to har­vest a bet­ter-than-ex­pected 200 000 tonnes of wheat, ac­cord­ing to a pri­vate com­pany’s satel­lite anal­y­sis.

Govern­ment, through the Grain Mar­ket­ing Board, had fore­cast this year’s har­vest to top 120 000 tonnes, which rep­re­sents about 30 per­cent of na­tional de­mand.

The State spends about $12,5 mil­lion monthly on wheat im­ports.

Mr Graeme Mur­doch, di­rec­tor of Na­tional Foods sub­sidiary PHI Com­modi­ties, said their sur­vey pro­jected out­put could top 200 000 tonnes.

“PHI con­tracted a spe­cial­ist com­pany to carry out a satel­lite anal­y­sis of the win­ter ce­real crops grown in Zim­babwe in 2018.

“We be­lieve that the fi­nal wheat crop could be as much as 200 000 met­ric tonnes, although we re­spect the GMB’s de­ci­sion to be con­ser­va­tive and put the fig­ure at 120 000,” said Mr Mur­doch.

He cau­tioned there was room for er­ror in satel­lite sur­veys.

Wheat pro­duc­tion, which bot­tomed out at 12 000 tonnes in 2009 has been im­prov­ing, and ex­perts say Zim­babwe can save $42 mil­lion to $70 mil­lion if wheat de­liv­er­ies top 120 000 tonnes or 200 000 tonnes re­spec­tively.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mur­doch, Govern­ment sup­port to the sec­tor through Com­mand Agri­cul­ture and favourable pro­ducer prices had stim­u­lated pro­duc­tion.

This year, 38 000 hectares — in­clud­ing 8 000ha of bar­ley un­der con­tract from Delta — were put un­der win­ter ce­real pro­duc­tion.

Zim­babwe Farm­ers Union pres­i­dent Mr Paul Zakariya said, “We are now at the tail-end of (wheat har­vest­ing). We are well within the time range and we should be done in the next two weeks or so.”

Zim­babwe Com­mer­cial Farm­ers’ Union pres­i­dent and Fed­er­a­tion of Farm­ers’ Unions rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mr Won­der Chabikwa said the short­age of com­bine harvesters im­peded har­vest­ing.

“Our wheat is in danger of be­ing ru­ined by rain. It’s a wor­ry­ing sit­u­a­tion and we hope ef­forts to ring-fence wheat har­vest­ing fuel will ma­te­ri­alise very soon,” he said.

Com­mer­cial Farm­ers’ Union di­rec­tor Mr Ben Gilpin voiced the same con­cerns.

“Most farm­ers do not have stor­age fa­cil­i­ties for wheat and so they need to de­liver as they har­vest.

‘‘In some cases, the farmer has the com­bine har­vester and the fuel, but can­not har­vest be­cause trans­port is not avail­able be­cause of diesel short­ages.”

Ser­vice providers for spares and main­te­nance work for com­bine harvesters, he said, were charg­ing in US dol­lars, fur­ther prej­u­dic­ing the farm­ers.

As at Oc­to­ber 20, an es­ti­mated 23 000 tonnes of wheat had been de­liv­ered to the GMB. Ex­pec­ta­tions are that de­liv­er­ies of wheat to the GMB will be com­pleted by De­cem­ber.

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