The notion that wheat cultivation is for commercial farmers is a colonial relic that needs to be abolished. Wheat has gained popularity at the Zambian breakfast table, making it a commodity that cannot be overlooked.
A local farmer based in Shimabala, Kafue, has shown that even emerging local farmers can successfully venture into wheat farming, a segment that has traditionally been the preserve of commercial farmers with a huge capital base.
Speaking in an interview, Joyce Lungu, a local wheat farmer based in Lukolongo area of shimabala, Kafue district stated that wheat farming is viable and that she has been growing wheat for the past three years. She said that small-scale and emerging medium size farmers can cultivate wheat and move away from the practice of maize mono cropping.
Lungu has been cultivating wheat for the past three years now and she is doing well. She told ZBT that during the planting period which is ideally in April, it is easier to plant because the land is soft and moisturized.
She disclosed to ZBT that cost of production for one Lima ( which is a quarter of a hectare) is about K700 and that includes land preparation, labour, fertilizer and weeding. She stated that on one Lima of land, she has been able to produces 15 by 50kg bags of wheat.
In the last harvest, Lungu sold a 50kg bag of wheat at K250 in the 2018/2019 season and when compared to a 50kg bag of maize which was going at K110, it’s clear that wheat is much more profitable, She said. She further stated that wheat has a ready local market, due to fact that Zambia’s daily breakfast is composed of wheat products. There are now so many local bakery and milling businesses that are ready to buy off the wheat.
On the yield level, from her experience in the past three years, she has noted that wheat has a high yield per hectare and it is easier to cultivate compared to maize.
Wheat is cultivated in dry seasons (winter crop), while maize is cultivated during the rainy season, so definitely wheat has irrigation costs but the return is still much higher when you look at total cost of production and revenue made from the higher sales price. Am encouraging local farmers to try out and start growing wheat, the cost of growing wheat is much lower than its perceived.
Wheat considered as a winter crop in Zambia, is a crop planted in the dry season from 20 April to 10 May, as opposed to the common notion, it does not require lots of water, but due to it being grown in winter when the rains have gone, one needs irrigation equipment to be able to successfully harvest. But its the fact that it does not require too much water that perhaps makes it not so expensive for the type of irrigation equipment to be installed.
Moreover, the capital invested in irrigation equipment is recoup over a longer period of time. Just ensure that you put in quality equipment that would last for some years.
On the marketing side, Wheat and its baking products is now officially adopted Zambia’s main breakfast meal in key cities and towns. Wheat is milled into flour, which is later used to make bread, biscuits, cake, pasta, noodles muffins and crumpets etc which make city dwellers breakfast table daily. This local consumption and demand has resulted in an ever growing local market as the middle class continued to expand.
The export market also into the neighboring countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC and to some extent Angola and the Great Lakes region remains largely unsatisfied resulting in imports from South Africa covering this yawning export markets. Moreover, wheat exports have not been subjected to export bans as is with the case of Maize, making the crop even more viable for exports.