Munashe Matambo Business Reporter
Tobacco contractor, Agritrade is planning to support over 5 000 small scale farmers in the next cropping season from 4 000 after recording its best season this year.
This comes when Zimbabwe’s tobacco output is projected to surpass the targeted 200 million kilogrammes, hence the Agritrade’s appetite to increase hectarage.
Agritrade managing director Cephas Rukweza told The Herald Business that due to the success of the support scheme in the 2017/18 season there was need to increase hectarage and financial support.
“This year we are going to increase a little bit from what we did last year, last year we contracted 4 000 hectares and this year we want to increase to 5 000 hectares and we expect that number to be around 7 000 farmers due to the independent farmers who seek extra bags of fertiliser or labour costs from us.
“To that effect, we are investing over $3, 6 million in the 2018/2019 summer cropping season from $2,6 million invested last year,” said Mr Rukweza.
He said a good marketing season was one of the major reasons for increasing hectarage and if the market demands more of a certain quality of tobacco, increasing production was necessary. Agritrade is also pursuing the export market hence the need to increase required quality of tobacco for that market. The Agritrade managing director acknowledged that its contracted farmers have been repaying well and the company had a recovery rate of over 90 percent.
He said: “The support we have been getting from farmers has been very good and as an organisation we are increasing production because our farmers are repaying loans very well.
Agritrade started operations in 2015 and is now operating across all regions.
However, the company favours to support and buy in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central tobacco, Mashonaland East and Manicaland provinces.
“Most of our growers are in Mashonaland West and Mash Central (provinces) because of the type of tobacco produced there. All the regions have different qualities of tobacco, but the tobacco that we mainly like is from Mash West and Mash Central tobacco because of the climatic conditions.
“We opened a Rusape floor to cater for Mashonaland East and Manicaland tobacco,” said Mr Rukweza.
The company has a database of 10 000 small scale farmers. According to Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board latest statistics Agritrade sold 3,4 million kg for around $7,9 million at an average price of $2,32 per kg.
The highest price was $5,70/kg and the lowest was $0,20/kg.