WANDILE SIHLOBO: Zimbabwe’s wilting wheat output offers many lessons
Wheat production has declined to a mere 20,000t as a consequence of bad policy decisions
The last time Zimbabwe was nearly self-sufficient in wheat production was in 2001, with a harvest of about 325,000t. After nearly two decades, production declined to a mere 20,000t as a consequence of bad policy decisions. The government embarked on an ambitious investment plan in 2017 to revive wheat production. This was a plausible initiative following increasing bread and other wheaten product consumption. This plan entailed production loan schemes for acquiring inputs such as seeds, fertiliser, agrochemicals and irrigation facilities. Disappointingly, there has been no change in wheat area planted and subsequent harvest outcome. The government had hoped its production scheme would lead to an increase in wheat-area plantings to about 50,000ha, but this fell short at only 10,000ha, according to data from the US agriculture department. The reluctance to expand wheat plantings was due to price competitiveness, with farmers favouring maize, tobacco and other crops. Zimbabwean agricul...