Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Scarcity of flour and frequent power cuts undermine Zimbabwe agriculture

Zimbabwe faces serious bread shortages blamed on the scarcity of flour as a result of a poor wheat harvest by the country’s farmers. Wheat farmers who are the main suppliers of wheat to the baking industry only managed to produce 75 000 tonnes of wheat against a projected output of 150 000 tonnes.

Power outages affected the irrigation scheme of wheat crops at a time when the wheat farmers had no fertilizer. “Our hectarage target was reduced to below half because of frequent power cuts and other problems that affected the wheat farming season. “Our target was 150 000 tonnes but we only managed to produce below 75 000 tonnes,” said Paul Zakariya, Zimbabwe Farmers Union director.

Zakariya added: “The other problem was procuring of fuel since banks are not forthcoming with funding. “Very little is coming from the banks and working capital is hard to come by,” said Zakariya. Usually, winter wheat farmers start planting from mid-April to the end of May but this year some had to continue planting up to early June, risking losing the crop to rains. An official with Bakers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) said many bakeries in Harare and Bulawayo have run out of flour and are struggling to secure funds from banks to import wheat. “The situation is now critical. Most bakeries have run out of flour and have no funds to import wheat,” said the BAZ official.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Zimbabwe are losing drugs worth thousands of US dollars due to frequent power cuts by the struggling power utility. Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is failing to produce adequate electricity for the country due to teething problems bedeviling it. The pharmaceutical manufacturing companies said power outages affect the production of drugs, forcing them to throw away the semi-finished products. The companies accuse ZESA officials of not advising them of the loading shedding schedule so that they can prepare in advance.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.