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June 09, 2009

Zimbabwe faces wheat shortage

Zimbabweans face a massive shortage of wheat next year, the state-owned Herald reported recently.

This was due to "the prohibitive cost of production" that had thwarted farmers’ efforts to grow the crop this winter, the report added.

Many farmers had money locked up in banks, which was rendered worthless, and as a result could not buy inputs to prepare for winter wheat cropping.

"The switch to foreign currency, which has proved elusive to many people, has hampered farmers’ hopes of a bumper wheat crop," the Herald said.

Farmers needed between US1,000 and US1,500 to produce a hectare of wheat; "amounts well beyond the reach of many."

The Herald added that banks were reluctant to provide credit lines to farmers.

"Where such credit facilities have been extended, many farmers have fallen short on the security requirements."

According to the Herald, wheat became "the first victim of dollarisation" as a number of farmers could not buy inputs because they were pegged in foreign currency when they had sold their previous crop in local currency.

Farmers who had planted wheat, however, had done so on smaller hectarages while others had gone into barley production.

"This means the targeted national hectarage of 100,000 would be a Herculean task to achieve," the Herald said.

The deadline for winter wheat planting is May 31 with some farmers extending it to mid-June, "but wheat planted late produces poor yields and usually falls victim to the summer rains."

The report recommended that the Zimbabwean government immediately start mobilising funds to import wheat.

Zimbabwe needs about 400,000 tonnes of wheat every year.

Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union vice president Garikai Msika said the winter wheat cropping programme was a total failure, blaming it on poor planning on the part of the inclusive government.

The Times

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