71 000ha cleared for wheat production

OVER 71 000 hectares have been cleared for wheat production as farmers race to meet Government’s target of putting at least 85 000ha under the strategic crop.

According to the latest Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development’s weekly report on winter wheat production, farmers have so far put 25 776ha under the cereal.

Last year, farmers produced a record 380 000 tonnes from about 80 000ha.

Government, however, has set a target of 408 000 tonnes this year.

To stimulate production, power utility ZESA has ring-fenced 120MW of electricity to ensure uninterrupted supply to wheat farmers for irrigation.

This season’s production is being supported by CBZ, AFC Bank, the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, various private sector initiatives and self-funded farmers.

Permanent Secretary in the ministry Dr John Basera said May 31 was the deadline for planting wheat.

“We always tell farmers that best yields are obtained if they plant by May 31,” he said.

“The outlook is promising as farmers are busy in the field and inputs are being pushed to farmers to meet the deadline.

“The planted wheat is already ergonomically well-established.”

The authorities, he said, will deploy high-tech drones to help deal with migratory pests that threaten this year’s harvest.

“In terms of the migratory pests, especially qualia birds, which can be a menace, we are ready.

“As the Government, through the Migratory Pests Control Unit, we believe that we are ready,” he said.

“We will make use of drones and spray planes. So, we are working with the District Development Fund (now the Rural Infrastructure Development Agency) and even the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe so that they support us in that regard.”

Government, he added, had imported chemicals to spray the pests in their breeding nests.

“We have imported chemicals and we will continue importing more.

“We hit breeding sites before the winter wheat season and we are targeting low-lying areas like Chiredzi and others so that we suppress the qualia birds.

“We also have a rapid response team in place to respond to any reports of pest sightings.

“Farmers are encouraged to continue planting the crop as we are still within the planting window and follow good agronomic practices.”

He said all farmers with reliable water supply have an obligation to grow wheat.

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