Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
The moderate rains being experienced in Manicaland are not good for the wheat that is ready for harvesting as it enhances sprouting and may lower the quality of the crop, the Provincial Agritex officer, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa has said.
Manicaland received moderate rains during the past week, especially in Makoni, where the bulk of the wheat was produced; followed by Chipinge, Mutasa and Mutare districts.
Farmers in these areas are calling on Government to ensure that combine harvesters reach their zones at the earliest possible time.
Wheat harvesting commenced a fortnight ago. This year, Government supported the production of 80 000 hectares of wheat across the country in a strategic move to cut imports and save foreign currency.
Zimbabwe needs at least 400 000 metric tonnes of wheat every year.
Manicaland did very well during the winter wheat season as it achieved 95,3 percent of its targeted hectarage.
Said the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba: “The province achieved 6 673.4 hectares against a target of 7 000ha, which translates to 95.3 percent.”
She said 5 212ha were under Command Agriculture while 1 461.4ha were from self-financing farmers.
“The set target was not reached as some irrigating farmers experienced power cuts. Fuel shortages also worked against them,” said Dr Gwaradzimba.
While the wheat is now being harvested in other areas, some farmers are facing challenges in accessing combine harvesters. Government recently dispatched two combine harvesters to each of the country’s 10 provinces in a move set to speed up wheat harvesting ahead of the rainy season.
The equipment is being loaned to wheat farmers through the Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (Agribank) with payments for use of the facility set to be done after harvesting. The combine harvesters are part of the US$51 million mechanisation facility from Belarus, which was launched by President Mnangagwa last month.
“Harvesting is in progress, we have received two combine harvesters through Agribank, which are already on the ground. We are praying for a break in the rains as this will help in intensifying harvesting. If the rains persist, it will damage the crop.
“The wheat will ferment, thereby compromising its quality. We have not yet received any adverse reports of farmers whose crop was damaged and we hope for a break in the rains to allow farmers to continue harvesting,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.
Mr Denford Mutwiwa of Mutwiwa Farm in Makoni said the rains, while good for the preparations of the 2020/21 farming season, pose a threat to the wheat.
“Heavens have opened up, but this might not be good for wheat. It will be rain damaged, and possibly lose all its quality,” said Mr Mutwiwa.
However, Middle Sabi Farmers’ Association chairperson, Mr Skumbuzo Todhlana said the wet spell and the damage caused by quelea birds is insignificant.
“The harvesting is progressing well. We received some rains late last week but that did not affect harvesting and the quality of the wheat. Unlike the previous season when quelea birds used to ravage the fields, the damage this season was insignificant and we are happy,” Mr Tondlana.
Although wheat farmers are losing sleep over the rains, Mrs Rwambiwa urged other farmers to use the current wet spell to intensify land preparation.
“With the rains received, we are encouraging farmers to finalise land preparation. However, we are not yet encouraging them to plant, unless they are in irrigation schemes,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.