By Albert Makendenge
The fact that wheat is the second most important cereal after maize in the food security basket in Zimbabwe clearly shows that it can simply be tied to farmers’ social and economic transformation in life. Flour’s easiness to produce various products such as bread, buns and cakes has made the crop popular with the general populace. It is therefore important to both the farmer and the nation and its benefits to the nation almost always/more or less come as benefits to the farmer.
To the farmer it is one of the crop ventures with a very lucrative return on investment. The return per dollar invested for wheat is about $2 to $3 under high productivity levels. After investing about $2000.00 per hectare, a farmer can get a total income of about $4000.00 (that is at 8 tonnes per hectare and $500 per tonne), giving a gross profit of about $2000.00 per hectare. Just imagine how immense the profits would be for a farmer doing 200 hectares getting between 8 and 11 tonnes per hectare.
It is also a major viable component of double cropping set ups. Farmers have always been encouraged to adopt the double cropping concept in order to improve their bottom and top line stories at farm level as well as to spread coverage of fixed costs per year. Growing wheat in winter also aids the spread of cash flow on the farm. The basic farm principle is that farmers should have at least 2 major crop harvests per year supported by other complementary crop sales or ventures after every two months. Diversity in terms of crops and non-crop ventures on the farm is really important and in as far as wheat is concerned, maize-wheat-maize or soybean-wheat-soybean are some of the common rotations which will generally ensure the smooth running of the farming business.
For a nation which is already in a drive for import substitution, the local production of wheat will result in foreign currency savings which can then be channeled to other more productive related priorities of the economy. The national annual wheat/flour requirement is about 350 000 metric tonnes and over the years Zimbabwe has been producing less than a quarter of this. One can imagine the savings if farmers in Zimbabwe can produce this sum requirement locally. This presents them with a huge opportunity to make full utilization of the resources available to them in a bid to bridge this massive gap between demand and supply, making huge profits in the process. Producing this annual requirement locally will surely double if not thrice agriculture GDP contribution from the current range of 20 to 30% upwards.
Producing wheat locally will create employment directly at farm level (agriculture value chain) and indirectly (other value chains) upstream and downstream industries such as milling, baking and food outlets. This can be very beneficial especially to those farmers which have a stake in more than just value chain and thus get to reap profits across the entire agribusiness system, that is from the farm to the fork or from the production up to the agro-processing.