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July 29, 2008

Zimbabwe misses wheat targets

Zimbabwean farmers have again failed to meet winter wheat target after planting 43 percent of the targeted hectarage, Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo said.

"We had a target of 70 000ha but we only achieved 30 379ha," he said.

Gumbo cited fertilizer shortages, power cuts, erratic supplies of fuel to farmers among other challenges.

Mashonaland Central had the highest hectarage planted of 7 802ha and Matebeleland South had the lowest hectarage of about 600ha.

The Government had projected 3,5 tonnes of wheat would be harvested from each hectare. This would translate to 105 000 tonnes from the planted hectarage, against the national annual requirement of nearly 450 000 tonnes.

Zimbabwe currently imports wheat from South Africa, Zambia and Malawi to meet local shortfalls. Bakers have been forced to suspend operations due to flour shortages, causing bread shortages on the market.

A deficit in wheat production would mean the country would have to allocate more foreign currency towards wheat importation. According to estimates, Government has already pumped about US$120 million towards wheat importation. Wheat shortages have seen the prices of bread and other cereal products rising beyond the reach of many.

The planting of wheat has come under severe stress in recent years due to lack of input, lack of the desired technical knowhow amongst some farmers and persistent droughts.

Wheat is a critical cereal crop needed to make bread, a major component of breakfast for most Zimbabweans.

The Herald

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