The Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) has challenged ZESA to ensure wheat producers are not shortchanged through power cuts resulting from unattended electrical faults.

ZFU Vice President Mr Berean Mukwende said wheat farmers lose out owing to inconsistent power supplies which are usually a result of delays by the power utility to attend to faults.

He also called for a downward review of power tariffs for wheat producers in line with regional rates which average 5 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to about 10 cents charged locally. 

Mr Mukwende also advocated for stiffer penalties on copper cable thieves whose actions negatively affect the productive sector which requires constant power supplies.

“ZESA must quickly attend to electrical faults. At times we think it’s a load shedding programme when in fact they are faults. Also ZESA tariffs are too high for wheat farmers, they are double the rate in the region,’’ he said.

ZESA Holdings spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira says the power utility is overwhelmed by vandalism of its network which requires important spares for which they have to queue for after placing orders.

He added part of the electricity distribution network is obsolete and due for replacement, a task that will take some time to achieve and called on stakeholders to curb vandalism of the system.

ZFU launches 5-year strategic plan

Meanwhile, the ZFU launched its new 5-year strategic plan running until 2022.

The plan, among other things, places emphasis on the need for farmers to make use of information communication technology to improve production and marketing of commodities.

“We want our farmers to use ICT for trade. Farmers should be linked to technology for them to get better services,’’ Mr Mukwende said.

Review soya bean, cotton producer prices

On another matter, the ZFU says while the body is happy with the producer price for maize, it is of the view that the price for a tonne of soya beans should go up to a thousand dollars, while cotton should be sold at one dollar per kg, factoring in the cost of production.