ZIMBABWE – NatFoods, Zimbabwe’s largest food manufacturer, intends to allocate 5,000 hectares of land to winter wheat cultivation this year, as part of its efforts to increase its winter wheat cultivation through contract farming program.

This comes as the Government is targeting 120,000 ha of the cereal this year, taking into cognisance the El Nino drought, which destroyed the bulk of the summer crop this season.

Last year alone, the company purchased 40,000 tonnes of winter wheat from contracted farmers, demonstrating its commitment to supporting local agriculture.

According to NatFoods, ramping up local wheat production is critical as the company is investing in more production lines that require wheat as a raw material.

This comes after the government, recently hailed Nat Foods for its continuous investments aimed at reducing the county’s import burden.

The commendation comes as NatFoods continues its strategic investments, pouring nearly US$16 million into various production lines between 2023 and 2024, aimed at reducing the nation’s high import bill for strategic food items, particularly cereals, flour and pasta.

Speaking during the National Foods Stirling Workington tour, Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said the Government was impressed by the firm’s immense contribution towards the growth of the local economy particularly the vision to import substitutes.

In addition, NatFoods expects to realise 40 000 to 50 000 tonnes of maize from the 2023-2024 summer cropping season after contracting farmers to set 5 200ha under the maize crop.

The company’s contract farming unit, PHI, established in 2011, has been instrumental in facilitating partnerships with farmers to enhance wheat cultivation.

According to Mr. Michael Lashbrook, NatFoods CEO, the company’s investment in wheat production aligns with its expansion plans, particularly in the pasta manufacturing sector, where wheat serves as a crucial raw material.

In addition to NatFoods’ efforts, other private sector entities such as CBZ Agroyield, NMBZ, AFC land bank, and ARDA are also scaling up their winter wheat cultivation initiatives.

The Zimbabwean government has set ambitious targets to drive winter wheat production, aiming to reduce dependency on imports and achieve food self-sufficiency.

Initiatives such as the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) underscore the government’s commitment to increasing local production to meet at least 40 percent of raw material requirements domestically.

Despite challenges posed by climatic conditions and historical import dependence, Zimbabwe has witnessed steady progress in winter wheat cultivation.

In 2023, the country planted 90,192 hectares of the crop, yielding 467,905 tonnes, marking a significant increase from previous years.

Looking ahead, the government remains steadfast in its support for agricultural initiatives, with the ultimate goal of achieving food self-sufficiency and reducing food insecurity.

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