A wheat pilot project which targets to produce over 300 000 tonnes of wheat and cut the huge import bill is on the cards in the  Mashonaland West greenbelt.

Chief coordinator of the project Mike Mutasa says the pilot project is ready to take off once the government addresses certain fundamentals, especially the issue of taxes being charged by offer letter holders to potential investors interested in boosting wheat production.

The wheat import bill which is hovering over US$200 million can be reduced if the wheat pilot project being initiated by some of the big farmers in Mashonaland West province where enough water bodies and irrigable land has been lying idle owing to lack of capacity by the farmers to venture into wheat production, is anything to go by.

“We have about 80 000 of irrigable land is lying idle here in Banket, Raffingora and Mazvikadei. A feasibility study we carried out here shows that the water system is there, with about 70 000 at  five tonnes per hectare – these areas can produce over 350 000 tonnes which is our national requirement, thus cutting the huge import bill,” explains Mr Mutasa.

The fact that most farmers allocated land in the rich wheat greenbelts of the Banket-Mazvikadei arable area have no idea and capacity to grow wheat is the big challenge which calls for government to urgently intervene.

“All farmers in this areas have come up with a comprehensive draft plan which can bring a stop to wheat imports. We hope government will quickly address the issue of partnerships, the charges demanded by offer letter holders are driving the investor away, certain fundamental like the 10 percent being charged for leasing land is not viable, but we hope the new dispensation will gives us an ear so that we have a win- win scenario between the farmer and the partners who have adequate resources to produce the wheat to meet our national requirement,” Mr Mutasa added.

Observers believe that the pilot project by Mashonaland West farmers can be one of the home grown solutions if government moves in to take tough decisions to ensure the vast water bodies and all arable pieces of land are put to good use.