By Oliver Kazunga
The volume of flour imports decreased by 60 percent between January and November 2017 due to increased production resulting in the country saving about $80 million.
Official data from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), shows that the country in recent years used to spend over $100 million annually on wheat imports due to low production of the crop locally.
The decline in wheat imports during the period under review is largely attributed to an improved commodity’s stock and production.
Despite the decline in wheat imports, trade figures from Zimstat for the period under review show that the country remained with negative trade balance of $1.4 billion after imports totalled $4.9 billion against $3.5 billion in export receipts.
For example one of the products that pushed the country’s import bill were mechanically deboned fowl cuts and offals, which accounted for $3.5 million while dried fish , fertilized poultry eggs, seed potatoes, fresh grapes and apples topped the import bill list.
Last year, Government targeted winter wheat output amounting to 200 000 tonnes against a national demand of between 400 000 tonnes and 450 000 tonnes annually.
An official with a leading confectionary who refused to be named citing professional reasons told Business Chronicle last week that despite wheat output still being below the national requirements, his organisation was securing flour locally without any challenges.
“As for our organisation, we are procuring our wheat locally without any hassles,” said the official.Wheat production peaked in the 1990, 1999, and 2001 seasons, when the country produced 325 000, 324 000 and 325 000 tonnes respectively.
Output declined in 2002 to 150 000 tonnes and later averaged slightly above 100 000 tonnes until 2008 at the height of the hyperinflation when production further dropped to 38 000 tonnes.
Between 2009 and 2016, production continued on a downward trend as the area under the crop drastically dropped due to erratic power supply for irrigation, poor irrigation systems among other factors.
However, production is on a rebound as Government is supporting wheat growing under the Command Agriculture initiative. The Chronicle