Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
TOBACCO contracting firm, Agritrade Leaf Tobacco (ALT), has surpassed its own target of contract farmers and has so far contracted 6 500 tobacco farmers and is now in the process of formalising the contracts with the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB).
The firm had in June announced that it was targeting 5 000 farmers on the back of its best season — 2017-18 — which saw them selling 3, 4 million kgs and earning $7,9 million at an average price of $2,32 per kg.
The firm mainly deals with small scale farmers.
In an interview with The Herald Business, ALT Field operations manager Mr Kudakwashe Saringo said the company has so far mobilised $4,5 million for disbursement to farmers having initially budgeted $3,5 million for farming inputs.
He said this year has also seen ALT supporting farmers from across all tobacco growing district in the country as opposed to focusing on a few.
Investment into the productive sector has been on the rise since the coming in of the new political dispensation led by President Mnangagwa which has increased Zimbabwe’s appeal to international financiers.
“We have so far mobilised $4,5 million from offshore funders for the coming farming season which has seen us registering about 6 500 farmers for our contract farming programme,” said Mr Saringo.
“The only problem we have is on transport where we are facing some teething logistical problems but we are confident that by October 15 we should be done with the distribution of inputs to our farmers so that they can plant early. There is also the issue about the El Nino threat so we want farmers to be ready to start planting by November 1,” he said.
Mr Saringo said the uptake has been so high that the firm is also finalising the release of a further $1,5 million from a local bank which should be used to contract even more farmers.
“For us the willingness to do more by way of investing in the productive sector, even beyond set budget, is a result of an enabling environment created by Government,” he said.
“We welcome the appointment of Minister (Perrance) Shiri to the Agriculture portfolio and you really can tell that he has re-energised the sector. We are appreciative of the culture of excellence he has inculcated in the industry and you can see the seriousness with which people are now approaching business.
“You will know of the Command Tobacco farming programme and it is really going to transform this foreign currency earning sector and quite honestly the positivity this Government has brought has not been experienced before,” he said.
ALT’s growth is reflective of industrial growth where the national registrants for the 2018-19 season has now surpassed 124 000 84 000 who registered last season with at least 30 000 being new farmers.