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Business Reporter
Government has advised wheat farmers affected by recent power cuts experienced in the past few weeks to report their cases to Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) for them to be prioritised in terms of power distribution.

The power outages severely affected irrigated winter wheat crop, denting prospects for better yields, farmers claimed.

“All the affected farmers should report their cases to the power authority so that they get priority. It has emerged that some of the affected farmers are not on grids prioritised by ZESA,” said Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda in a telephone interview.

This comes after technical faults at Hwange Thermal station, the country’s second largest power plant, saw electricity production declining, leading to rationing of power to consumers.

“We have been seriously affected,” the president of Zimbabwe Farmers Union Abdul Nyathi told our sister publication Business Weekly in an interview.

“The frequency of irrigation has been seriously disturbed as a result and we are worried that this may affect our yields.”

Some of the crop had reached tillering or stem extension stage, but this has slowed down, Mr Nyathi said.

“This will affect yields . . . we have engaged the authorities about the situation,” Mr Nyathi added.

Dedicated lines

At the beginning of the planting season, the Government assured farmers that they would have dedicated power supply lines during winter season to ensure uninterrupted irrigation. This was because winter seasons are highly characterised by huge electricity demand that often results in critical power cuts.

“That was a policy from the ministry, but it has not happened . . . that has not been implemented,” said Mr Nyathi.

Zimbabwe missed winter wheat production target, but the area planted increased 53 percent from last year, a notable feat for a country that had literally become a net importer of the commodity, latest Government statistics have shown.

The Government has set production target of 85 000 hectares, but at the end of the planting season, nearly 63 000 hectares had been planted. 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.

“Cabinet advises that of the 85 000 hectares planned for wheat, 62 879 hectares have been planted for the Presidential, National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Schemes or Command or CBZ Agro-Yield and private sector schemes,” Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said.

The country has been spending millions of dollars to import the grain to meet shortfall.

Minister Mutsvangwa said a total of 296 443 tonnes of maize have been delivered to the Grain Marketing Board, an increase of 306 percent compared with last year. Nearly 30 000 tonnes of small grain have been delivered, an increase of 1 184 percent.

Soyabean deliveries are up 866 percent to 10 198 tonnes. Global and regional institutions forecast Zimbabwe’s economy would expand this year largely on high farm output.

The International Monetary Fund forecast that the economy would grow 6 percent this year, almost double its initial projection largely on higher agriculture output

The IMF’s new projection is higher than the 3,4 percent growth forecast by the World Bank last week while the Government expects growth of 7,4 percent this year.

– The Herald

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