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Heavy Rains Dampen Zimbabwe Hopes For Overdue Wheat Harvest

Some farmers and agricultural officials may be pleased to see the heavy rains now falling across Zimbabwe, but others are concerned that the downpour could mean an even bigger shortfall than feared in the lagging winter wheat crop.

Authorities had projected a harvest of 220,000 tonnes, but the Grain Marketing Board, a state monopoly, said it has taken delivery from farmers of only 60,000 tonnes.

A GMB official said the rains will not do much damage to the standing wheat crops, as farmers can still harvest when they stop and the wheat dries out.

Many farmers have failed to harvest all their wheat due to fuel shortages and the cost of hiring combine harvesters. One farmer said the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, or ARDA, charges $55,000 (US$220) a hectare to harvest while commercial harvesters charge $95,000 ($380) per hectare for the same service.

Agronomist Renson Gasela, agriculture spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the main problem is a shortage of harvesters.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...