Zimbabwe’s focus on wheat set to yield biggest-ever harvest

Oct 25, 2022, 11:35 PM | Updated: 11:57 pm
A combine harvester offloads wheat grain into a truck during a harvest at a farm in Bindura about 8...

A combine harvester offloads wheat grain into a truck during a harvest at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested.

Like other African countries, Zimbabwe has for decades relied on imports to offset low local production. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in global shortages and price hikes, the country wanted to ensure “self-sufficiency at all costs,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Vangelis Haritatos told The Associated Press this week.

The country expects to harvest 380,000 tons of wheat, “which is 20,000 more than we require as a country,” Haritatos said. That is up from about 300,000 tons produced last year.

“We are most likely to get the highest tonnage since 1962, when wheat was first introduced to Zimbabwe. A lot of countries are facing shortages, but the opposite is happening in Zimbabwe,” Haritatos said.

While other hunger-stricken African countries are struggling with reduced wheat imports due to the war in Ukraine, Zimbabwe is looking at using its anticipated surplus of the grain to build “a small strategic reserve” for the first time in its history, agriculture minister Anxious Masuka told journalists earlier this month. This would cushion Zimbabwe against future shocks.

Masuka said Zimbabwe plans to bump up wheat production to about 420,000 tons next season, giving the country room to keep building its strategic reserve and become an exporter of the grain. Wheat is Zimbabwe’s most important strategic crop after corn.

African countries — which imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures — were hit hard by the global shortages and price hikes of grains as a result of the war. The African Development Bank has reported a 45% increase in wheat prices on the continent.

African nations were at the center of Western efforts to reopen Ukraine’s ports as the United States and allies accused Russia of starving the world by denying exports from Ukraine, a key global grain exporter. African leaders also visited Russia to meet with Putin over the issue.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa in April described the war in Ukraine as a “wake-up call” for countries to grow their own food.

The answer in Zimbabwe has been to empower local farmers, said Haritatos, the deputy agriculture minister.

That included roping in hundreds of small-scale, rural farmers to start growing a crop that was traditionally reserved for large-scale commercial farmers, improving water supply infrastructure and distributing fertilizers to small-scale farmers as well as increasing private-sector participation. The crop was introduced for the first time to areas and farmers who had never grown wheat before.

Winter corn production has given way to wheat in many areas, with Zimbabwe banking on corn reserves to meet demand for the staple food. Land used for growing wheat increased from 66,000 hectares (163,089 acres) in 2021 to 75,000 hectares this year and will grow to 100,000 hectares next season.

“A lot of countries discount small-scale farmers because they are so small that individually they cannot effect much change,” Haritatos said. “But we organized them into clusters and convinced them that it was possible. The quality of most of their crops is premium.”

He said the war in Ukraine had made Zimbabwe “realize that we shouldn’t rely on other countries for food that we can grow on our own.”

However, Zimbabwe’s wheat is predominantly soft, and there is a need to blend it with imported hard wheat varieties to produce quality flour for bread, according to the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe. But the government has ruled out imports amid the surplus, saying a special permit would be needed.

The wheat harvest runs from October to December. However, both farmers and the government are concerned by the threat of raging bush fires and imminent rains. They say the fires are more devastating than in previous years as climate change contributes to an extended dry season.

“Farmers are increasingly getting worried about the time factor. It looks like the rains will be upon us soon. Wheat should be out of the fields,” said Paul Zakariya, director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, which represents small-scale growers.

Officials said bush fires destroyed wheat worth nearly $1 million in a single week in mid-October. Zimbabwe is amid the “fire season,” characterized by severe heat and strong windy and arid conditions that precede the rainy season.

The government says it has deployed more combine harvesters to help farmers speed up the harvest and is carrying out fire prevention awareness programs. The country’s environmental management agency has described bush fires as “one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time.”

___

See AP’s complete coverage of the food crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/food-crisis.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              A combine harvester harvests wheat at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
            
              A watches a combine harvester harvest wheat grain at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
            
              A woman walks past a wheat farm waiting to be harvested at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
            
              A man covers his face from dust from a combine harvester harvesting wheat grain at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
            
              A combine harvester offloads wheat grain into a truck during harvest at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare,in this Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
            
              A combine harvester offloads wheat grain into a truck during a harvest at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
            Farmers inspect wheat grain during harvest at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) Farmers show some of the wheat grain during a harvest at a farm in Bindura about 88 kilometres north east of the capital Harare, Monday, Oct, 10, 2022. Zimbabwe says it is on the brink of its biggest wheat harvest in history, thanks in large part to efforts to overcome food supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine. But bush fires and impending rains are threatening crops yet to be harvested. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

AP

FILE - Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct...
Associated Press

Meta oversight board urges changes to VIP moderation system

LONDON (AP) — Facebook parent Meta’s quasi-independent oversight board said Tuesday that an internal system that exempted high-profile users, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, from some or all of its content moderation rules needs a major overhaul. The report by the Oversight Board, which was more than a year in the making, said the […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Pope tightens oversight of Vatican-linked foundations

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Tuesday tightened control and oversight over Vatican-based foundations and associations in his latest effort to impose international standards of accounting and governance on Vatican offices and affiliated entities. A new law aims to bring the Holy See into further compliance with recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Moneyval […]
7 hours ago
FILE -  Kirstie Alley attends the premiere of HBO's "Girls" on Jan. 5, 2015, in New York.  Alley, a...
Associated Press

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ star, dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV megahit "Cheers" and in the "Look Who's Talking" films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday. She was 71.
7 hours ago
FILE - A student visits a sensory room at Williams Elementary School, on Nov. 3, 2021, in Topeka, K...
Associated Press

Many kids are struggling. Is special education the answer?

The COVID-19 pandemic sent Heidi Whitney’s daughter into a tailspin. Suddenly the San Diego middle schooler was sleeping all day and awake all night. When in-person classes resumed, she was so anxious at times that she begged to come home early, telling the nurse her stomach hurt. Whitney tried to keep her daughter in class. […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: How credit can beat buy now, pay later

At first glance, a “buy now, pay later” plan’s promise of no interest or upfront fees can seem more appealing than a credit card’s terms. Dividing a transaction into, say, a pay-in-four installment plan sounds straightforward and manageable. Unlike credit cards, though, these plans lack certain consumer protections and are sometimes unpredictable. In this way, […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Then Economic revitalization minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura speaks during a press conference ...
Associated Press

Japan, Belgium to cooperate in chip production, development

TOKYO (AP) — A newly founded Japanese semiconductor company aiming to revive Japan’s chip industry will collaborate with a Belgian research organization in research and development of next-generation chips for production in Japan. Economy and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Tuesday that the new company, Rapidus, which was launched last month by eight corporate […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Zimbabwe’s focus on wheat set to yield biggest-ever harvest