117 000ha under irrigated tobacco so far
More than 116 760 hectares have so far been put under irrigated tobacco compared to 106 349 hectares last year, as early planting is progressing well with farmers determined to push up production.
About 53 876 growers have so far registered with Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) for the 2023/24 season as growers in communal, A1 and small scale sectors want to continue after the record tobacco crop of 298 million kilogrammes in the 2022-2023 season.
TIMB public relations officer Mrs Chelesani Tsarwe said the season was progressing well and encouraged established farmers to renew their grower numbers while first-time growers should apply to the TIMB through regional offices.
‘’TIMB wishes to remind all growers that is those who wish to venture into tobacco farming and those already growing tobacco they need to register as stipulated in the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Act. Registration should be carried out at TIMB head office at Southerton in Harare or at any of the regional offices in Bindura, Mvurwi, Karoi, Chinhoyi, Marondera, Rusape and Mutare,’’ she said.
Technical officers approve the grower application after a successful assessment.
“The compliance and registration office will conduct a compliance check for further verifications. If the forms are compliant, the compliance and registration office will generate a grower number for that applicant.
Applicant are required to pay a US$10 fee if registration is done before October 31 after which they will pay an additional US$10 for late application.
When one applies from January 1 to the first day of the opening of the selling floors, the grower fee will remain at US$10 plus now a US$40 penalty.
“When one applies after the first day of opening of selling floors one will pay US$10 as grower fee and US$90 penalty. Official TIMB receipts will be issued to farmers for all payments made including penalties.”
Tobacco Farmers Union Trust president, Mr Victor Mariranyika said the season was progressing well adding that soil tillage was still difficult to farmers who were preparing the rain fed crop.
‘’Irrigated crop planting is progressing well but the only challenge is that farmers who rely on rains are facing difficulties in tilling soil because we did not get rains in winter unlike the previous years,’’ he said.
Most started on September 1, but those waiting for the rains are managing their seedbeds and nurseries, waiting for the onset of the rains to transplant.
Normally, farmers with irrigation are contracted and they get inputs timely even though they may be expensive. The challenge is with some smallholder farmers who rely on self-funding.
Contract growers do not have problems because they get inputs. There is a lot of activity in most tobacco growing areas as farmers are transplanting their crop.
Mr Victor Mariranyika said commercial farmers were the ones busy with tobacco planting, adding that the small scale growers were waiting for rains to start planting. There is a lot of activity in most tobacco areas as most farmers are transplanting their crop and there were no major challenges since most of the irrigated tobacco farmers were funded through contracts.
In assisting farmers, the Government has deployed 37 tractors and other high tech agricultural equipment for soil conservation operations countrywide before the onset of the rain season.
Mrs Charity Munaiwa of Banket said they were geared for the new season and were busy attending to various issues such as monitoring tobacco seedbeds.
“We are excited that the new season has begun, but this is a stressful period because of various duties which all need attention at the same time,” she said.
In Zimbabwe, tobacco is grown under irrigation (September planting) or as dry land (that is rain fed) between October and December.
Most small scale growers exclusively produce dry land tobacco, while some larger commercial farmers produce irrigated crops.
Tobacco production has been on the increase in the past years and this season, farmers are forecasting an increase in production.
Industry and the Government see the bulk of improved production coming from the smallholder farmers who now dominate the growers.