Conrad Mupesa Mashonaland West Correspondent
LANDS, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri yesterday launched the Mashonaland West Province 2020 winter planting programme with a target of 35 000 hectares at Combe Farm in Zvimba.
Minister Shiri said farmers must gear up production as the nation moved to block foreign currency leakages through the imports of wheat and other grains.
“As we move forward to transform our economy through the agriculture sector, this year’s national target of wheat production seeks to address unnecessary importation of grains that chew into the foreign currency reserves,” he said.
“Foreign currency should be used to acquire chemicals, farming machinery and oil.”
Minister Shiri observed that it was prudent for farmers to fully utilise their land in a professional manner.
“Land was given to you (farmers) as an economic empowerment tool, but if you fail to utilise your pieces of land, Government will not be hesitant in repossessing and giving it to other deserving farmers so that the nation moves ahead,” he said.
Minister Shiri, who applauded farmers in Mashonaland West province for fully utilising the land, urged Agritex, legislatures and councillors to encourage farmers to venture into winter wheat production.
The province is expected to produce at least 40 percent of the total national target of wheat.
“As a ministry, we are working with input suppliers so that input distribution is done in earnest and farmers should also make strides to access the inputs,” he said.
“Farmers should use this period between April and May to plant their wheat to realise huge yields.”
Minister Shiri implored the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to speedily set up zonal collection centres.
He challenged the Zimbabwe National Water Authority and Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company to ensure that wheat farmers were not affected by shortages this season.
Deputy Minister of Energy and Power Development, Magna Mudyiwa said the increasing water levels at Kariba Dam were going to improve power supplies.
She assured farmers of adequate electricity during the whole period of winter wheat production, with farmers expected to receive power at least three days a week.
Host farmer, Mr Ephraim Pasipanodya, thanked Government for availing land to him and implored other farmers to utilise their land.
Mr Pasipanodya is among 68 farmers and three institutions contracted for winter wheat in Zvimba district, with 5 161 hectares having been earmarked for the programme.
He has already planted 30 hectares of wheat, but is targeting 150 hectares, which he will rent from surrounding farmers as he only owns a 35-hectare farm.
Minister of State for Mashonaland West province, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, challenged farmers to rise to the occasion.
Seed Co commercial agronomist, Philip Matambo, provided lessons during field tour.