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Huge Wheat Shortfall Forecast in Zimbabwe
Another serious wheat shortfall is looming this year as the area prepared for the winter wheat crop over the past four years continues to shrink.

In the current season, only an estimated 45% of between 65 000 and 85 000 hectares that are normally put under irrigated winter wheat is likely to be planted due to a shortage of seed, fertilisers and low levels of water for irrigation.

Information to hand shows that the remaining white commercial farmers across the country are likely to plant around 15 000 hectares while the other 25 000 hectares will be taken up by newly-resettled farmers.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) crops section spokesman George Hutchison said farmers would be forced to further reduce winter wheat hectarage this year because of the shortage of water for irrigation.

"Over and above the unavailability of inputs, there is very little water to irrigate the crop this year," Hutchison said, adding that "most farm dams have no water to irrigate the wheat."

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) past president Thomas Nherera however said an estimated 50 000 hectares would be put under winter crop.

"Though farmers are showing the zeal to plant over 80 000 hectares this season, water availability is the limiting factor," Nherera said.

"Current dam levels cannot support more than 50 000 hectares."

Zimbabwe has an annual wheat consumption of 400 000 tonnes excluding 80 000 tonnes of hard wheat required to blend with the local product. Gristing wheat has always been imported.

Agricultural experts said wheat production this year was projected to slump to an all-time low because of lack of funds to finance the crop.

Agribank, government's agricultural ventures financing arm, was this week issuing farmers with vouchers to purchase seed, fertiliser and chemicals, amid revelations that government is still sourcing funds.

Experts said irrigation facilities had been vandalised over the past four years of the chaotic land reform programme.

Under optimum conditions with the use of irrigation facilities, a maximum of six tonnes of wheat are produced per hectare.

It is estimated CFU members have irrigation equipment covering only 18 000 hectares, down from the 85 000 hectares that could be irrigated before the inception of the land reform programme.
MGR Archive 8.5.2005
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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