61 000ha registered for command wheat

Farmers have registered close to 61 000 hectares of land for wheat under Command Agriculture for this winter cropping season with planting already underway, a senior Government official has said.

Command Agriculture, which started during the 2016-17 when Government committed 400 000 hectares of maize to produce two million tonnes for national food security, has since incorporated wheat and livestock.

The programme will now stretch beyond the envisaged three years.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said last week that some farmers who had harvested early had started planting wheat, while others were still harvesting their summer crops.

He said Government was in the process of verifying the applications from interested wheat farmers.

“On Command Agriculture relating to wheat production, we go on the ground for verification,” said Dr Made. “To date, we have verified 49 000 hectares. Of the verified land, we have contracted 35 000 hectares from 1 000 farmers.

“We will continue to verify the land, specifically when farmers finish harvesting summer crops and if land preparations for the winter crop are done.”

Dr Made raised concern over rain showers being received in some parts of the country and said they were heavy in some areas and this could affect harvesting.

“This winter wheat season looks very good compared to the other past seasons,” he said. “Government intends to contract 40 000ha under command wheat and we also have three other companies willing to contract collectively 15 000ha.”

At an average yield of four tonnes per hectare, the country can expect 220 000 tonnes from this year’s crop. Dr Made said some farmers were doing wheat on their own and this was going to increase hectarages and yields.

“The picture of wheat is looking good for now,” he said. “We should remember that unlike maize, wheat requires 100 percent irrigation and there is need for electricity supply.”

Dr Made said management of the wheat crop was going to be better than maize since the wheat hectarage was small. He said there was need for the distribution of a full package of inputs at once.

“Unlike maize where we targeted 200 000ha, the wheat hectarage is smaller and manageable,” he said. “Farmers are happy of a funding facility that has a low interest rate.”

Meanwhile, $400 million has been mobilised to pay farmers who deliver their maize to the Grain marketing Board.

“GMB has received $34 million from Treasury, the Agricultural Marketing Authority is already mobilising $85 million, while GMB itself will raise $18 million,” said Dr Made. “We are also expecting, over a period of time, for Grain mailers Association of Zimbabwe to mobilise $200 million and the balance is being mobilised by Treasury. Farmers should move with full confident to deliver their maize.”–herald