I am looking at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) crop production data, and they have an interesting extract on Zimbabwe’s wheat industry.

The USDA forecasts Zimbabwe’s wheat production for the 2023/24 marketing year at 240,000 tonnes, up 37% year-on-year, which is very encouraging.

This is mainly supported by an expansion in the area planted and improved irrigation. The USDA states that “Zimbabwe’s wheat is nearly 100% irrigated and grown by commercial farmers who deliver their harvest to Zimbabwe’s Grain Marketing Board.”

Such an improvement in the harvest prospects will help reduce Zimbabwe’s wheat import needs. The country consumes roughly 410,000 tonnes of wheat a year. This means while production increased, Zimbabwe will still import wheat to fulfil domestic needs.

Major deviations

However, these USDA figures are miles apart from what the Zimbabwean government reported – a crop of 468,000 tonnes.

In a dataset stretching as far back as 1960, Zimbabwe has not produced a wheat harvest of over 400,000 tonnes. Thus, I am more inclined to believe the USDA figures for now and only observe the government estimate of 468,000 tonnes, with a major dose of uncertainty.

Had Zimbabwe expected such a major wheat harvest, continuous imports would not be needed to supplement the domestic needs. Yet, Zimbabwe continues to import wheat from various countries.

Also worth noting is that Zimbabwe is buying some wheat from South Africa. So far, in the 2023/24 marketing year, South Africa exported 21 832 tonnes of wheat to Zimbabwe.

With mixed-up production data like this, one should keep a close eye on this matter; better data should be available in the coming months.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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