Zimbabwe: Government Gives Arda Wheat Target

24.11.2016

GOVERNMENT has set an annual wheat production target of 200 000 tonnes for the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which has entered into public, private partnerships (PPPs).

ARDA has 22 farms covering 98 000 hectares of land.

Wheat production has declined over the years with government statistics for the 2016 winter crop indicating a production output of 60 000 tonnes, although independent statistics show that production was at 30 000 tonnes.

The country requires 400 000 tonnes of wheat and consumes 25 000 tonnes weekly.

Zimbabwe has become heavily dependent on imports for domestic demand.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Davis Marapira, said government was expecting to use the PPPs to reduce wheat imports and boost production on ARDA farms which have the capacity to guarantee the country's food security if fully utilised.

However, most of the farms have been lying idle for many years.

ARDA has in the last two years entered into partnerships with investors to rehabilitate its estates.

"In terms of wheat production, we expect high yields because ARDA does not only have the PPPs, but they have ventured into the project highly mechanised which will help in improving production," said Marapira who confirmed the targets.

Recent statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that despite reduced wheat hectarage, average wheat yields for 2016 were as high as five to six tonnes per hectare compared to three tonnes per hectare the previous year.

ARDA estates planted more than 12 000 hectares last year with ARDA Antelope Estate in Maphisa planting 400 hectares of the winter crop.

"The PPPs have started yielding results, with some estates previously producing three tonnes of wheat per hectare, now producing 8,1 tonnes of wheat per hectare.

"What it means to the country is that instead of importing wheat, we can now substitute with local production," Marapira said.

The 200 000 tonnes target set for ARDA will be augmented by the command agriculture scheme, said Marapira.

"We have made sure that all necessary facilities like water and electricity are available at lower rates. ARDA is also a beneficiary of command agriculture which will enable it to produce more wheat," he said.

Speaking recently in Nyanga, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa revealed that ARDA had produced 50 000 metric tonnes of wheat and would double the tonnage next year.

"We agreed that ARDA had collapsed and we should form PPPs because government had no money to resuscitate the estates. In just two seasons they have doubled the production already," said Mnangagwa.

During the 2015/2016 farming season a few farmers took up wheat production due to high costs of production, financial constraints and lack of viability.

Farmers' woes have been compounded by government's failure to finance wheat production, while contract farming schemes have not yielded much.

Zimstats data shows that Zimbabwe imported 94 265 tonnes of wheat mainly from South Africa, Russia, Mauritius, Canada and Mozambique between October 2015 and April 2016.

Imports of wheat flour mainly from South Africa reached 48 436 tonnes, making Zimbabwe a net importer of the commodity critical for the bakery industry.

According to the Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN) report of 2016, wheat production will remain subdued due to erratic climatic conditions, power outages and lack of viability as farmers move to cash crops such as tobacco.

The Grain Marketing Board is offering an incentive of US$500 per tonne for wheat.

"The drought coupled with very high temperatures which increased evaporation negatively impacted on water supplies for irrigation of the winter wheat crop and will result in reduced production of the crop in 2016. Dam levels are low due to the poor rainfall season and the national average dam levels are currently at 51 percent," GAIN's report said.

Local producers used to harvest up to 260 000 tonnes from about 65 000 hectares, with the balance being imported.

In 2001, the country produced 314 000 tonnes but in 2013 production was at 24 000 tonnes.


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