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Martin Kadzere

Wheat farmers will have dedicated power supply lines during winter season to ensure uninterrupted production, Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda has said.

Winter seasons are characterised by huge electricity demand that often results in critical power rationing. Zimbabwe’s power deficit is likely to widen after regional utilities Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa of Mozambique and Eskom of South Africa, indicated they will not be able to export power outside firm contracts during winter as they will also have huge demand.

“We have engaged our usual power utilities and others in the region but they told us that they will not be able to supply us,” Minister Soda told Business Weekly in an interview.

“So with regards to farmers, we are putting them into clusters; put some dedicated power lines so that in the event that we do not have enough power, priority will be given to them.”

Zimbabwe is targeting 85 000 hectares of winter wheat this year under three programmes. Sixty thousand hectares are targeted under Command Agriculture, private investors, joint ventures and self-financed farmers are expected to put 15 000 hectares under while the Presidential Inputs Scheme will plant 5 000 ha. 

Between 70 and 100 megawatts would be required for the programmes, Minister Soda said. Wheat is Zimbabwe’s second staple grain, after maize, but the country has been failing to meet its annual consumption requirements of between 400 000 and 450 000 tonnes. Farmers have welcomed the move by the Government, saying this would end water shortages for winter wheat. 

“Winter wheat depends on water supply and the equipment that pumps water depends on availability of power,” Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Abdul Nyathi told Business Weekly. 

“We are happy that the government has find an extra way of alleviating water shortages . . . for the first time and is an acceptable move.” 

Kariba hydroelectric plant is expected to produce at full capacity, generating 1050 MW on the back of adequate live water, Hwange thermal plant 250 MW, small thermal stations 30 MW while Independent power producers will generate 20 MW. 

This will bring internal generation capacity to 1300 MW, against forecast demand of 1400 MW. Taking away 100 MW that will be dedicated for winter wheat, the country will have a deficit of 200 MW. 

“We will resort to load shedding but it will not be severe; not more than 2 hours per day and this will not disrupt major economic activities,” said Soda. 

Zesa, the power utility was expecting to bring back Hwange unit 5 in production on the weekend. Minister Soda said the Government was also negotiating with banks to help farmers pay for power in advance and get paid after they sell their produce through a stop order facility. -Business Weekly

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