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Nonsikelelo Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
MIDLANDS Province has started preparations for this year’s winter wheat farming with farmers targeting a total of 11 000 hectares.

Early this month, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced an additional $2,5 billion to capacitate farmers in the forthcoming 2021 winter wheat planting season. RBZ’s monetary policy committee resolved to increase support for winter farmers as part of measures to boost output and curb imports.

Annual wheat consumption for Zimbabwe is estimated at above 400 000 tonnes and yet wheat imports of around 80 percent are made each year. Following the good 2020/21 rainy season, a need to vigorously scale-up wheat production has been noted with the Government and the private sector expressing commitment to work together in boosting output. Speaking to Sunday News, Midlands Agritex Extension officer Mrs Madeline Magwenzi said they have already registered a number of farmers for this year’s winter farming season, although more farmers are urged to register.

She said it was unfortunate that last year, while they were targeting 5 000 hectares, they managed to plant just 3 500 hectares owing to the unavailability of underground water.

“We are at an advanced stage for winter wheat farming preparations now as we all know we are already in the planting season of winter wheat. As I speak, we have managed to register quite a number of farmers and contracting is underway. Last season, of the targeted 5 000 hectares we managed to do 3 500 hectares due to lack of underground water. This year we are, however, looking at 11 000 hectares where most of irrigation schemes in the province have come on board,” she said.

Mrs Magwenzi noted that due to the good rains this year they were confident of an improved yield as underground water levels were adequately bolstered.

“We have visited farms across the province, actually there are three main districts that are very suitable for winter wheat production due to availability of water, hence this year’s target,” she said.

The winter wheat planting season stretches from the end of April to the last week of May and can be extended to mid-June. Mrs Magwenzi said while they appreciated the challenges that mainly affected winter wheat production which include water supply and irrigation infrastructure, they will not allow these to delay this year’s cropping.

“There are teams at district and provincial level that are visiting fields, irrigations system to assess readiness,” she said. – The Sunday News

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