Harare, Sep 16 (IANS) Zimbabwe is expecting to harvest about 220,000 metric tonnes of winter wheat this year, more than double last year's output due to increased government support to farmers, lands, agriculture, water and rural settlement, said Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka on Wednesday.
He said harvesting and marketing of the wheat was officially opened on September 10 by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the sole buyer of the cereal.
"In terms of production, some 44,399 hectares were planted. This is an 83.6 per cent increase in the area planted from the 24,186 ha planted in the 2019-2020 season. We expect 200,000 to 220,000 metric tonnes which will go a long way towards meeting the annual national wheat requirement of 400,000 to 450,000 tonnes," the minister said in a statement.
The country produced 60,000 tonnes of wheat last year, compared to 160,000 tons produced in 2018.
Masuka urged farmers not to side market government-funded wheat, and warned unscrupulous buyers that those found on the wrong side of the law will be severely punished.
He said government will adequately capacitate the GMB so that it pays farmers timeously.
The minister said going forward, there is need to augment the winter wheat program with a vibrant summer program, through enhanced participation of the private sector.
He said according to government's agriculture recovery plan, at least 40 per cent of agro-players such as grain processors, millers and stock feed manufacturers must secure their agricultural raw materials locally through value-chain financing.
"The benefits of this approach are indeed multifarious, including foreign currency savings through import substitution, employment generation, local farmer capacitation and risk reduction," he said.