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Record wheat harvest still possible despite rains

Lands Permanent Secretary Professor Obert Jiri

ZIMBABWE will still get a record wheat harvest as the crop is in good shape despite the recent belt of storms that lashed the country, affecting over 5 000 hectares, although significant damage was limited to just 30ha in Manicaland.

Heavy rains can damage, to varying degrees, wheat that is ready for harvest or has been harvested but not brought under shelter.

As long as the wheat is not blown over so it is hard to harvest, and so long as the rain is followed by a sunny day, there will be no significant damage.

If wheat is still growing, rain is not a problem.

The main problem is when the mature wheat remains wet for some time or lying on wet ground, resulting in the grain starting to rot, and damage builds up.

It can then still be used for stock feed, but not for flour and bread.

Zimbabwe is still expected to harvest around 430 000 tonnes of wheat this season, which will result in a large surplus since the country requires 360 000 tonnes per annum for its bread and confectionery requirements.

If the 430 000 tonnes were to be achieved, that will ensure self-sufficiency, with good carryover stocks while some could be exported.

Farmers are still harvesting wheat and experts are urging them to speed up the process in the next 10 days to ensure the crop does not get compromised.

To date, over 80 000 tonnes of wheat from over 13 000ha have been harvested, representing about 15 percent of the total wheat harvest.

Statistics from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development indicate that over 5 000ha were affected by the recent rains but more assessments would be done.

The report indicates that Mashonaland Central has the most affected area, with 2 779ha but found no significant damage.

Bindura had 700ha affected, plus 60 tonnes of harvested wheat, Mt Darwin had about 16ha, Shamva 250ha, Guruve 115ha, Mazowe 1 664ha, Centenary 40ha and Rushinga 10ha, but no district reported any significant damage.

Manicaland follows with 1 919ha but with 30ha being a write off.

Chipinge has 642ha, Mutasa 545ha, Makoni 570ha, Nyanga 32ha, Mutare 30ha and Chimanimani 20ha, but outside the 30ha, there was no significant damage.

In Mashonaland East, the affected area is 657,9ha, 10ha in Chikomba, and 469,9ha in Hwedza but with no major damage.

Matabeleland North has an affected area of 188ha and no significant damage.

The report also indicates that in areas in the province such as Umguza District, the rains affected 68ha of 122ha to be harvested.

In the Midlands, Kwekwe — the hub of wheat production — received heavy rains but the wheat is still upright and that is promising.

Chirumanzu has about 350ha that has not yet ripened, hence there was no harm to it, and the situation is the same with Gweru district.

Matabeleland South has an affected area of 218ha and no significant damage. Masvingo is the least affected area with 2,8ha.

Statistics from the ministry also indicate that the average yield is 5,4 tonnes per hectare.

Lands Permanent Secretary Professor Obert Jiri said so far, there is no effect on the 430 000 tonnes wheat target.

“We need more assessment. Mostly it is the quality that may be affected, not the quantity. We hope to meet our target despite rains,” he said.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Dr Shadreck Makombe urged farmers to speed up wheat harvesting, adding that all systems were in place to ensure farmers carry out the harvesting process smoothly.

But he stressed that wheat farmers should plant early to reap early.

“The time for planting is also crucial; plant early so that the rains will not compromise wheat quality. Farmers should consider time because we end up losing wheat every year due to rains.

“Farmers should remove wheat before it becomes too dry to avoid losses. This season, rains are unpredictable so there is a risk of losing wheat through early rains again. Farmers should use combine harvesters offered by Government and other private players,” said Dr Makombe.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Mrs Monica Chinamasa said farmers in Headlands have not started harvesting because of high moisture content in their wheat.

“We are still waiting for the moisture content to drop to around 14 percent so that we can start harvesting.

“Currently, moisture content is around 18 percent but 12,5 percent is the one which is accepted on the market. We have no choice but to wait until moisture drops,” she said.

Mrs Chinamasa said they are anticipating another bumper harvest this year because of good rains received in the last season.

Disruptions in the global value chain caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict have prompted the Government to expand production in the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS) to include private companies so that they contract farmers.

Herald

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