ZIMBABWE – Wheat farmers in Zimbabwe have appealed to the government to impose a reduction in electricity tariffs as a measure to encourage farmers to allocate more land for irrigated wheat cultivation.  

The plea comes after the Government announced an initiative to reduce water charges by 31% for irrigation farmers, which will be backdated to the time when the crop was planted as part of the strategies to ensure a successful winter wheat season.

Mr Paul Zakariya, Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Secretary General said that to ensure profitability in the wheat sector, production costs must significantly decrease.

“Reduction of water tariffs is one of the factors that will help turn around the fortunes of our producers. The same should be extended to energy,” he said adding that if the same is applied to electricity costs, the benefits would be much more.

Mrs Monica Chinamasa, the president of the Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) concurred with the appeal noting that the cost of farm inputs has been one of the bottlenecks faced by farmers in the country. By reducing the cost of irrigation, production costs would be significantly reduced.

We are happy with the water tariff reduction. The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) must do the same, as inputs are still very expensive and the cost of production high,” she appealed.

Zimbabwe is grappling with climate-induced shocks including floods and drought, exacerbated by economic instability.

The country is therefore devising measures to cushion its citizens from staving through a raft of measures aimed at motivating wheat production for self-sufficiency and export.

Wheat farmers have been placed into clusters using global positioning system (GPS) coordinates for each wheat farm for ring-fenced water and electricity supplies.

In addition, the government has released the Winter Cereal Production Plan as part of El Niño-induced drought mitigation efforts.

According to the plan, contractors are expected to plant 123 500 hectares for an estimated yield of 624 000 metric tonnes of wheat, while the targeted area for planting barley is 7 000 hectares. Maize/sorghum is expected to cover 3,250 hectares.

Government urges private sector to invest in irrigation

Meanwhile, the Government has called for private sector participation in irrigation schemes to boost yields during the prolonged dry spells and spur economic growth.

Professor Obert Jiri, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary said irrigation schemes are critical in mitigating the effects of climate change, turning communities into green belts, and enhancing national food security.

We need partnerships, our target is to ensure that non-functional irrigation schemes are rehabilitated.  This will allow us to produce more food hence our salvation is in irrigation,” he said.

Presently, 331 irrigation schemes that irrigate 15 000ha are functional out of 460 irrigation schemes needed for the whole country to cover 26 000ha

Rehabilitation and construction of irrigation schemes across the country is continuing and the Government is aiming to rehabilitate 45 irrigation schemes and construct five new ones this year.

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