Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) is in the process of mobilising farmers to start preparations for winter wheat cropping next month as it moves to ensure improved production.
In an interview on the sidelines of a Dubai Market research dissemination workshop held in Bulawayo on Wednesday last week, AMA director responsible for production planning, marketing and operations Mr Maxwell Chikanda said cropping of this season’s winter wheat begins on the second week of next month.
“We are trying to mobilise farmers for winter wheat production, which effectively starts beginning of May,” said Mr Chikanda.
Stakeholders are targeting to increase the area under the crop to around 90 000 hectares from 70 000 hectares this season.
Last year the country slightly missed its target of attaining 200 000 tonnes of wheat as farmers delivered a total of 181 519 to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
Although farmers failed to meet the target, it was a major increase buoyed by the introduction of the Special Wheat Programme commonly referred to as Command Wheat by Government.
“We are saying farmers should take advantage of the late rains to do land preparation so that they plant early and those who have irrigations must ensure that their irrigation systems are up and running to prepare for the winter crops.
“Same applies to horticulture, the late rains mean that there is irrigation water, which must be taken advantage of and we must ensure high quality produce for the different markets,” he said.
Mr Chikanda said AMA was also preparing for the crops marketing season, which has been delayed by the late rains.
“We are basically preparing for the forthcoming marketing season, which in terms of legislated dates started on the 1st of April but the crops are yet to be harvested with the late rains which we are receiving. We only expect that the effective buying of crops will start some time at the end of May or beginning of June,” he said.
Mr Chikanda said the Government was offering lucrative prices for deliveries of strategic crop produce considering that most of the inputs are subsided.
“There is a package, which has been put to the tune of $60 million (for cotton production) by the Government where they have subsidised various inputs . . . last season most of these inputs were given free of charge and it cushions farmers such that the farmer is not obliged to meet the cost of such inputs and it makes it more profitable for farmers,” he said.
The Government has maintained the $390 per tonne maize price despite it being the highest in southern Africa as a way of encouraging farmers to increase production as part of its efforts to improve the country’s food security.
“The Government has supported the production of maize through the Command Maize Programme, in addition the price has remained at $390 per tonne for some years. I think it is a very good price in the sense that it has a subsidy component,” said Mr Chikanda.
Last year Government set the price for soya beans financed under the Presidential Input Scheme at $610 per tonne which was 22 percent higher than the prevailing market rate.
“Soya bean is a new crop, which has come to this season when the Government provided seeds to all potential farmers. We are yet to see the outcome and the response of farmers in terms of how they have planted that crop, but we believe that the prices, which the Government will provide will be satisfactory and make it much more viable for the farmers to go back into production next season,” said Mr Chikanda.-@DNsingo