WHILE the onset of rains is good news for any farmer, the reverse is true for the country’s newly resettled wheat growers who risk losing millions of dollars as they are
still battling to harvest their crop.
Delays by the farmers in harvesting wheat has been compounded by their inability to hire combine harvesters. The farmers have resorted to using hand-held sickles to harvest the crop.
An agriculture expert told the Zimbabwe Independent that new farmers could not achieve desired production levels due to lack of knowledge, skills and finance. They do not have the capacity to match production levels of displaced commercial farmers.
“Wheat is a very difficult crop to grow for the new farmers,” said the expert.
“Most of these farmers are growing wheat on land between 10 and 15 hectares when the crop must be grown on a large area for someone to realise a profit. Small areas are difficult for farmers to get a profit from since hiring a combine harvester for 1 hectare now costs $300 000,” he said.
The worst affected areas include Mushandike Irrigation Scheme, the largest irrigated area under wheat in Masvingo Province, and in Mashonaland Central province.
Local demand of between 400 000 and 500 000 tonnes per annum used to be met through imports of gristing wheat used to blend the local product to get high quality flour.
The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) in August said only 4 500 hectares had been put under wheat in the commercial farming sector because of continued disturbances and uncertainty. The figure was a mere 6% of the area that used to be planted before the land reform programme in 2000.
Commercial farmers used to put between 65 000 and 80 000 hectares of land under winter crop, producing up to 300 000 tonnes of wheat.