ZIMBABWE – The government of Zimbabwe has unveiled plans of engaging more producers in contract wheat farming in a move that seeks to increasing local production aimed at cushioning the country form hefty wheat import bill.

According to Mr Cephas Mlambo, Manicaland Agritex Livestock and Crops officer the “government is in the process of registering contract winter wheat farmers as a way of increasing production and yields.”

“We are aiming at reducing the import bill on the crop by engaging more farmers under the Command Wheat programme which has since boosted the winter crop production during the past years.

“Command Agriculture Zimbabwe is contracting farmers for winter wheat season and contracting is still in the process.”

Mr Mlambo added that under the initiative, farmers will receive inputs to facilitate them in wheat production across Manicaland, Mutare, Mutasa, Nyanga and Makoni districts.

Launched in 2016, Command Agriculture is a government farming scheme meant to ensure grain availability and self-sufficiency.

The government is targeting 75 000 ha under wheat production in the forthcoming winter cropping season to ease the spiking demand of wheat.

According to Vangelis Haritatos, deputy minister for Agriculture, 60 000 hectares will be under Command Agriculture, while 15 000ha will be sponsored by the private sector under private, public partnership (PPP).

Haritatos said Government targets to produce 70 percent of the country’s annual demand of wheat leaving an import gap of 30% – which is expected to reduce the import bill significantly.

“We have 15 000 hectares that are being sponsored by the private sector, we have 60 000 hectares under the Command Agriculture programme. We have enough seed, fertilisers and chemicals.”

“So, in total we have 75 000 hectares that we are going to put under wheat production. If we do well on this we will produce more than 70 percent of the country’s annual demand of wheat,” he said.

Deputy Minister Haritatos said farmers should capitalise on the new producer price of wheat and maximize production.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has also resolved to avail foreign currency to manufacturers of basic goods for the acquisition of raw materials so as to arrest price increases experienced in the country.

Zimbabwe which is a net importer of the commodity requires at least 450 000 tonnes of wheat per year to meet the national bread requirements.