GZU to venture into commercial production of traditional grains meals


Harare (New Ziana) – Retail outlets in the country are beginning this month expected to start selling traditional grains meals from the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU), a senior official has said.

In a wide-ranging interview with New Ziana on the promotion, processing and production of traditional grains in the country and elsewhere, Dr Xavier Poshiwa, the Dean of the Gary Magadzire School of Agriculture and Engineering said processing of the grains meals will be done at the GZU Innovation Centre for Dryland Agriculture situated near Mashava in Chivi, Masvingo.

With assistance from the parent Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, the GZU completed the innovation hub superstructure at a cost of US$500 000 with the equipment bought for US$283 000. Its main aim is to promote livelihoods of people under dry lands conditions through farming.

“I am talking about processing 430 tons from farmers that we have subcontracted. We are processing using the equipment that we have made ourselves. Our engineers at GZU have fabricated a dehuller, a roaster and we’ve bought a small hammer mill that we are using to start the business. We are going to be having equipment that we have bought and paid for already from China. They are making it and by October it’ll be installed in our major plant such that we will be in a position to process, not 430 tons, but 20 000 tons annually,” said Dr Poshiwa.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a Zimbabwe stakeholders’ workshop which is part of a series of pre-conference events for the India-Africa International Millet Conference set for Nairobi, Kenya at the end of this month.

The conference being organised by the Indian and Kenyan governments in partnership with ICRISAT is to commemorate 2023 being declared the International Year of Millets by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the United Nation as part of efforts to promote the production, processing and promotion of millets as a food source.

Millets are known to be rich in protein, calcium, iron, potassium, Zinc, magnesium and fats and health benefits making them a choice for millions that suffer from hypertension, obesity and celiac disease.

Dr Poshiwa said growing traditional grains dovetails with lesser livestock, aquaculture, and apiculture and a free-range poultry project underway being fed with feed stock manufactured at the plant. at least 100 farmers in Chirumanzu at the beginning of this month received 1 000 chicks each in addition to the feed while 1 500 chicks were distributed to farmers in Gutu using the same method.

“We convert the traditional grains into meals, multi grain meals and then into different products like feeds for livestock, fish, broilers and free-range chickens so those are the products that we would be milling at our grain processing plant,” he said.

To secure the raw materials, the GZU contracted farmers from the seven Masvingo districts starting in the 2021/22 cropping season by providing them with agricultural inputs and advisory services.

The university then went back and bought the traditional grains for processing and repeated the process the following year. It has so far collected 30t of grain from Gutu and Mwenezi districts with Gutu providing mostly finger millet while pearl millet came from Mwenezi.

A further 30t is ready for collection from Mwenezi while 60t of both white and red sorghum have been mobilized in Chiredzi, which is also expected to provide more than 30t of sunflower seed.

“Our initial idea was to include the protein component in the feed but now we see that we have an opportunity to express our cooking oil and then the sunflower cake can be used to produce the feed but as we speak starting next week you will be seeing GZU branded sorghum meal, finger millet meal and also pearl millet meal in our shops in 2kg and 5kgs and even multi grain, we have got sorghum, maize and finger millet so this is how we are trying to promote the production, processing and consumption of traditional grains in Zimbabwe,” said Dr Poshiwa.

He said the high prices of traditional grain meals in retail outlets were driven by the lack of a guaranteed market for farmers forcing them to resort to middlemen that bought the grain at inflated prices of between US$20 and US$28 per bucket.

“What we are doing is promoting farmers to produce grain; we produce together which means the price we are going to be buying the traditional grain is on the lower side.

“For a ton we are buying finger millet for US$750 which translates to US$15 a bucket, but the middlemen can buy at US$20 or US$28 for a bucket. If you go for pearl millet and even sorghum, we are buying a ton at US$386.50 which translates to about between US$5 and US$6 a bucket and farmers are really happy with the price that we are charging.”

With this price the GZU will be able to charge between US$4 and US$5 for a 2kg pocket of finger millet meal, which is almost half the prevailing price of US$8 for the same packet.

While admitting the GZU price is still on the high side, Dr Poshiwa said from a health perspective, it worked out much cheaper compared to maize meal considering the cost of managing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension when patients are prepared to pay anything for traditional grains meals.

“The other strategy we’ve implemented is to go to schools; there are schools like Devure in Gutu that have been clamouring for us to provide them with finger millet meal so they can use it for kids with porridge. That’s why we were also talking about diversifying into different products, noodles, mahewu and many others and even thinking of producing bread using our own white sorghums.”

New Ziana

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