by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe is anticipating a volume of more than 300,000 metric tonnes of wheat this year, against an annual requirement of 360,000 metric tonnes.
"This is on the backdrop of the current national wheat stocks which stand at 70,000 metric tonnes, making Zimbabwe wheat self-sufficient for the first time since 2005," Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told the media on Tuesday following a cabinet meeting.
Low wheat output has over the years forced the southern African country to rely on imports.
In 2020, Zimbabwe produced wheat sufficient to cover nine months' supply after farmers delivered 155,000 metric tonnes of the crop to the Grain Marketing Board.
Wheat deliveries plummeted following the Land Reform exercise of the early 2000s, but production has been on the increase due to government support for farmers.
The Land Reform program, which began at the turn of the millennium, aimed at correcting colonial injustice by redistributing productive land from white-owned farms to more than 150,000 black farmers.
Maize production has over the years also registered major growth.
This year Zimbabwe suspended maize imports after the country recorded a bumper maize harvest of 2.8 million tonnes of the staple crop, against the national consumption of 1.8 million metric tonnes annually.
The increase in maize production was attributed to abundant rainfall received in the 2020/2021 farming season, and early distribution of inputs and support to farmers by the government.
The area under maize also rose to 2 million hectares in the 2020/2021 season, against 1.5 million hectares a year earlier.
Maize production had also declined significantly over the two decades due to disturbances caused by the Land Reform program and the effects of climate change.
The anticipated bumper crop harvest is expected to see Zimbabwe becoming food sufficient and reclaiming its status as the breadbasket of the region.
In tobacco production, output this year outstripped last year's 185 million kg and reached 210 million kg.
The area under tobacco increased by 6.1 percent from 117,976 hectares cultivated in the 2019/20 season to 125,176 hectares in the 2020/21 season, with 84,000 hectares under irrigation.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe's second foreign currency earner after gold, with China and South Africa being the major buyers of the "golden leaf."
This year Zimbabwe expects its economy to grow by 7.4 percent, driven by a successful agricultural season, recovering commodity prices, and increasing industrial production and exports.