Zimbabwe looks to double wheat output
ZIMBABWE plans to nearly double its wheat output to 75,000 tonnes this year, its agriculture minister said on Tuesday, still leaving the country with a huge deficit to be met by imports.
The southern African country requires 400,000 tonnes of wheat annually and has struggled to feed itself since President Robert Mugabe began a drive to seize white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks in 2000.
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Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told reporters the government would provide $20 million in low-interest loans to farmers for this year's wheat production.
"We are proposing that we target 26,280 hectares for winter wheat. This targeted hectarage should give us 75,000 tonnes," Made said.
"This might sound little, but considering the 41,000 tonnes we got last year, this will be some improvement."
Farmers' unions put Zimbabwe's wheat output at 12,000 tonnes last year, barely enough to feed the country for a week.
Made also reiterated that Zimbabwe faced a shortage of its staple grain maize, after nearly a third of the planted crop was written off due to poor rains.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti told the same news conference Zimbabwe would have to import wheat to ease shortages, but said the government had built up 500,000 tonnes in maize reserves to supply regions facing a deficit.
Last December, the United Nations said it would raise $268 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe, with half the money to be used to buy food for more than 1.4 million people facing shortages.