By Melisa Chatikobo

AGRICULTURE deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos has called on the private sector to partner farmers to enhance winter wheat productivity.

Speaking at the Zimbabwe Wheat Board conference and awards in Harare yesterday, Haritatos expressed hope that more farmers would take up wheat production this winter cropping season owing to the availability of inputs.

“Last season 2020/21, the area under production was 66 435.86 hectares against a target of 85 000 hectares. This was 78 percent of the target area which is the highest since independence. 

“The government thrust is to see more millers and other private players joining contract farming to ensure 40 percent of raw material is achieved by the private sector. 

“Since wheat has to be grown under irrigation, the crop is pretty well guaranteed as long as good agronomic practices are implemented, the harvest will be good,” Haritatos said.

“The value chain must work together in a coordinated manner to ensure the linkages are strengthened by ensuring that our wheat value chain is highly dependent on our locally produced wheat.

“The value chain players must also develop collaborations, relationships, alliances and synergies with regional and international wheat institutions for the benefit of local companies.”

The deputy minister said private sector participation was key to push the agriculture industry’s success, which would reduce import substitution.

“I would like to applaud the effort which was shown by the private sector in augmenting the efforts by the government to increase wheat production.

“Following the success of the wheat production last season, the value chain has the potential to increase its production reaching national sufficiency and export the surplus,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same occasion, CBZ Agro Yield chief executive officer, Walter Chigodora said they had enough stock to prepare for the cropping season although farmers were not paying back their loans.

 “Low loan repayments affect the timeous distribution of inputs in time. Timeless distribution of inputs is required to increase agriculture production. I am happy to say that as Agro Yield, starting this month inputs will be readily available, so farmers are going to be able to access their inputs. Therefore, you will fail on your own after we do our part,” Chigodora said.

He further said Command Agriculture which is being financed through CBZ bank was an interdependent financing structure hence it is critical for farmers to pay their debt.

“It is a revolving fund and therefore, if one partner does not commit, it affects everyone involved. We are now having extension officers who will work with government extension officers in monitoring the good agronomic activities so that we have a close interaction with the farmer.”