There is a 21 percent increase in the number of growers who sold their tobacco this marketing season compared to the 2016 season. A total of 95 829 growers sold their tobacco this marketing season compared to 74 575 last season.
Notable is the 57 percent increase in the number of women who sold tobacco this season. The continued increase in the number of farmers in the tobacco sector, particularly women and youths is a welcome development.
For success in tobacco farming, one needs to adhere to good agronomic practices right from land preparation right through to presentation and marketing.
The good agronomic practices can be acquired from extension officers and through attending training programmes that are availed to farmers at no cost by TIMB, TRB and Agritex.
If one tries to venture into tobacco production without guidance, proper planning and necessary knowledge, one is certainly doomed to fail.
Prisca Fireyi, 44, from Odzi, highlighted that in-depth knowledge on the crop and proper planning are critical success factors to producing good quality tobacco. “By the time the season commences a good farmer should be ready to embark on her farming journey,” she said
Fireyi who ventured into tobacco growing business in 2001 said certain processes and procedures have to be considered and followed to avoid loss. “From the land preparation stage up until the curing stage certain procedures have to be followed. The crop appears to be a bit demanding but once a farmer is committed and has adequate knowledge, growing tobacco is an easy task,” said Fireyi.
According to Fireyi a farmer should consider winter ploughing before the month of June when seedbed preparations start. “Depending on the farmer a field should be ploughed two or three times to remove the weeds as well as to mix the soils “A farmer must record the dates on which he or she should have applied weed or pest chemicals.
“Another option for a farmer is to burn maize husks in order to control weeds. This does not always need to buy expensive chemicals. Farmers ought to learn to manage costs without however cutting corners. “Care should be taken when applying fertilizers as less or too much fertilizer can also affect the crop,” she said.
Once the nursery is done, watering is to be managed so that it will not affect the seed before it germinates. The seedbed has to be covered with grass to protect the tobacco plants from frost as well as protecting it from being splashed by water when watering.
Amai Mkwasi, 34, from Centenary echoed the same sentiments with Fireyi saying fertilizer is number one requirement when it comes to tobacco growing. “Fertiliser is a requirement which helps in producing quality yield however when applied in excess it might lead to the destruction of the crop,” she said
Mkwasi said she uses cup number 30 to apply compound C, cup 5 for her initial application of Ammonium Nitrate, cup 8 when applying the second time as well as cup 5 for Calcium Nitrate which is usually applied after topping.
The other important aspect which should be well taken care of as said by the two ladies is harvesting tobacco at the apt time, when it is neither green nor overripe.
“If tobacco is harvested green, it has a fixed green colour after curing and if it is over ripe, it turns a blackish colour after curing, both scenarios which affect the prices at the floors.
“Leaves should be lemon or orange after curing depending with whom you are targeting to sell to, and this is achieved in fertiliser application,” she said. Curing is another stage which should be handled with care, said Mkwasi. “If one fails to manage the curing process, one may lose her crop at this stage.”
Mkwasi who has been into tobacco growing since 2012 produced 7 500 plus kilogrammes on her three hectare farm. “From my tobacco proceeds, I bought a Ford Sierra, furnished my home, and I can afford to hire tractors when ploughing, something that I could not afford in the past.
Mkwasi urged tobacco farmers to buy coal for curing in order to reduce negative impact on the environment. Farmers are urged to attend to TIMB trainings which are conducted in their regions to gain experience and knowledge on how best to produce quality tobacco in an efficient way.
- For additional Information contact ? TIMB on telephone numbers 08677004624 /6 or 0772145166 /9 or 0279-22082 /21982 or 025-3439 or 067-24268 /29246 or 0277-2700 or 064-7280 or 0271-6772 or Toll Free Numbers 08006003 / 0731999999 / 0712832804 or WhatsApp 0731999999 or E-mail: [email protected]