ollowing two decades of food insecurity, Zimbabwe is seeking to eliminate dependence on the imports of key staple crops and reclaim its regional breadbasket status.
This year, the southern African country is expecting a record-breaking harvest of more than 380,000 tonnes of wheat against the required annual consumption of 360,000 tonnes.
“This implies that there is a surplus this year. This is an amazing harvest,” John Basera, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development said recently during a Presidential Winter Wheat Field Day in Mazowe District, Mashonaland Central Province.
Wheat is the most important cereal in Zimbabwe after the staple crop maize. Last season, farmers produced enough wheat to cover around nine months’ supply of domestic demand.
“In 2020 we managed to do 45,000 hectares, a rise from where we were in the past. In 2021, we did 66,000 hectares,” he added.
Crop production had declined significantly over the years due to disturbances caused by the land reform program, heavily affecting the country’s capacity to meet its grain requirements. Under the land reform program, which started in the early 2000s, the government compulsorily acquired farmland from white farmers to resettle landless blacks as a way to redress colonial land ownership imbalances.
Zimbabwe has also endured frequent droughts over the years owing to climate change.
In 2020, the country launched the Agriculture and Food System Transformation Strategy with the aim of accelerating agriculture production and growth.
In maize production, after recording a decline in output in the 2021/2022 summer cropping season, more than 3 million rural households have been targeted for support under the Presidential Input Program in the 2022/2023 cropping season.
The program is primarily aimed at increasing grain output per unit area through the adoption of conservation agriculture and adoption of efficient farming practices such as density management, crop rotations, and pest and weed management.
In legumes production, a push to boost production of groundnuts by the government in the 2022/2023 summer cropping season is expected to raise the harvest next year by 75 percent, moving Zimbabwe into self-sufficiency for oil.
Chief Director of Agriculture and Rural Advisory Services Obert Jiri said production of groundnuts is meant to cut imports. “We used to import groundnuts from Malawi, we do not want to continue doing this. We want to produce our own groundnuts,” Jiri was quoted by state-run Herald newspaper on Thursday.
To increase its exports, the Zimbabwean government is currently working on scaling up production to meet the global demand for citrus fruits.
The country is finalising preparations to start fresh citrus exports to China, following virtual inspections done by the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) in August.
John Bhasera, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, told SAT that following the inspections, Zimbabwe is now finalizing its post-inspection report for submission to China.
However, Eben Mabunda, a financial analyst, said Zimbabwe’s agricultural ecosystem can only be revitalised if farmers are allowed security to their land. “This would make the land bankable, attract financing into the sector, secure inputs and guarantee results. Once this ecosystem is revived, in the medium term food security can be attained and sustained with the reduction of the import bill occurring as an offshoot,” he said