ZIMBABWE is facing another poor winter wheat harvest as farmers face a host of challenges including lack of finance, shortage of inputs and constant power cuts.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Commercial Farmers’ Union spokesperson Hendrik Olivier said the few farmers that still produced wheat faced serious viability challenges.
“I do not see us getting enough time and resources for the planning of this winter wheat season. There are major issues to do with electricity which will affect the cost of water,” said Olivier.
“In the long run, it is going to be much cheaper to import flour than to grow wheat. We have got a serious problem and unless we sit down and address these issues we are still going to import processed flour.”
Goromonzi farmer Godfrey Chingwe said many farmers would not meet the target for winter wheat production as they were still to harvest their maize.
“The maize crop was disturbed by the change in rainfall patterns. Some farmers had to replant and fortunately the last rains were good for the ripening. But the bulk of these farmers will not meet the target for winter wheat as they have not yet started land preparation,” said Chingwe.
He said most of farmers were struggling to access funding for this year’s crop.
“We are yet to hear whether or not government is going to chip in with funding but as it is, most will be waiting for financial aid so that they can commence production,” Chingwe said.
An official from the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union said the cost of electricity was one of the major challenges affecting farmers this year.
He said in the past even white commercial farmers used to get electricity at subsidised rates but the cost had become unbearable after the removal of the facility.
“Government used to support farmers with subsidised electricity tariffs but now it has become more difficult as electricity is now 60% more expensive,” said the official who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Another farmer said getting into winter where electricity was on high demand due to low temperatures, they were anticipating another erratic season in view of the current challenges facing the power utility, Zesa.
“The challenges that Zesa is facing are going to cascade down to the farmers just as they affect residents in individual households. It is going to be a difficult season,” said the farmer.