By Ndafadza Madanha
THE country’s largest private financier and producer of wheat Northern Farming invests US$16m annual in the production of the cereal and is targeting to grow 10 000 hectares next year.
Northern Farming expects to harvest 47 000 metric tonnes of wheat this year from the 6 900 hectares cropped a sharp decline from the 8 000 hectares grown in 2017 and yielded 52 000mt. Zimbabwe is expected to produce 120-145 000 metric tonnes of wheat this year against national demand of 450 000mt.
Average yield per hectare for Northern Farming is 6.3t/ha which is above the national average of 4.3t/ha.
Wheat market share for Northern Farming has grown to about 45% in 2018 from 30% in 2017 despite decline in hectarage in the comparative period.
The company attributable decline in its wheat hectarage, this year to the reintroduction of Barley programs that resulted in some farmers opting not to grow wheat.
Nationally the hectarge under wheat fell from 43 846 ha in 2017 to 34 736 ha in 2018 at time when demand is soaring and the country is reliant on imports.
However, Northern farming said the resurgent inflation was eroding profitability and urged government to review the price of wheat.
Northern farming said while wheat grown within Zimbabwe does not currently generate foreign currency but requires a certain portion of foreign currency to be grown government should consider prioritizing what will be given to growers and companies wanting to produce wheat.
The company said payment of at least 30% of the market price into grower/ contractor FCA Accounts to cover USD related costs not currently prioritized would go a long in easing operations.
Also the unavailability of medium to long term finance at affordable rates was hampering ability of growers to re-capitalize or expand.
The company said continued support from RBZ, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture and the GMB in ensuring payments are processed efficiently and timeously will allow financiers and contractors to continue investing in a double cropping program.