ZIMBABWE – The Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) and private partners in the country will this year fund the winter wheat production under contract farming by the government to the tune of ZWD 2.74 billion (US$7.57m).

According to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, an increased yield of 415 000 metric tonnes is expected, surpassing the required 400, 000 metric tonnes achieved annually.

The government will increase the planted area to 80, 000 ha from last year’s 24, 184 ha with CBZ farming 65, 000 ha whilst the private sector 15, 000 ha.

The country is also expected to record wheat reserves for the first time in decades if the programme is well undertaken.

Zimbabwe has had to import wheat from neighbouring countries following almost two decades of poor yields due to several challenges that included lack of funding by commercial banks and electricity shortages among others.

Chiwenga, who chairs the Food and Nutrition Committee, revealed that, “the producer price had been approved by cabinet with a pre-planting winter wheat producer price pegged at ZWD14, 143 (US$39) per metric tonne but subject to review in line with changes in input prices using a cost plus 20% margin price to ensure prices remain attractive.”

He added, “Electricity would be uninterrupted at wheat clusters from April to September, with an added 55% tariff of commercial rates.”

The farming season will not be affected by the poor rains as all winter wheat cluster dams are almost full at 68%, Lands minister Perrance Shiri highlighted.

“Capacity holding of dams countrywide is at 55% but for wheat clusters, the dams are 68% full which is enough for the intended winter wheat and early summer crop production,” said Shiri.

Other initiatives by CBZ aimed at boosting agricultural production includes the rolling out a US$50 million bond to finance the 2019/20 agriculture season.

According to the bank, the bond instruments which was launched in January was set to finance the importation of farming inputs specifically for maize and soya bean as part of efforts to improve production of the two essential food crops.