Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
MANICALAND province has recorded the highest increase in the number of farmers who have registered to grow tobacco for the first time in the 2017-2018 cropping season, recent statistics from the industry regulator show. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said although the total number of new farmers in the province remained lower than in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central, Manicaland registered a 219 percent rise in new registrations as of November 16, from 1 260 new farmers in 2016-2017 season to 4 669 new farmers this season.
Of the total number of new growers in the province, at least 2 124 are communal farmers, while 2 238 are A1 farmers. Owing to the favourable prices prevailing in the industry, the number of communal farmers taking up tobacco farming has been growing since 2009 when Government adopted multiple cur- rencies.
Approximately 126 of the new registrations are A2 farmers and 189 are small- scale commercial farmers. A total of 29 408 new farmers in six provinces have registered to grow the golden leaf this season, a 148 percent increase from the 13 638 new growers registered during the same period last season. Mashonaland Central recorded the highest number of new growers at 11 603 during the period under review, a 105 percent increase from 5 665 new growers in the comparable period.
In Mashonaland West, 9764 new tobacco farmers were registered, up from 5 209 that registered in the 2016-2017 season and Mashonaland East registered a 156 percent rise in new registrations from 1 260 last season to 3 230 this year. Midlands and Masvingo had the least number of new growers during the review period, at 114 and 28 farmers respec- tively. TIMB figures show that the number of farmers who have registered to grow flue-cured tobacco has gone up 36 percent to 98 983 from 72 880 recorded in the same period last season.
Of this number, 14 885 was recorded in Manicaland, representing a 48 percent increase in the number of flue-cured tobacco farmers in the province from 10 044 recorded in the same period last season. Since the commencement of the 2017-18 tobacco planting season, commercial farmers in Manicaland have planted more than 2 300 hectares of the projected 23 000ha.