Hailstorm destroys tobacco

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Fortunate Gora Correspondent
Some small-scale tobacco farmers in Zvimba District were left counting their losses after heavy rains extensively destroyed their crop. Some farmers have transplanted, while others are harvesting their irrigated tobacco. Heavy rains which hit the country in recent days dashed farmers’ hopes of a bumper harvest.

Plants in Banket, Chitomborwizi and surrounding areas had their leaves destroyed. In an interview, Mr Mind Nyanhemwa of Portlett Farm said he lost about two hectares of his mature irrigated crop. The crop was not insured.

“This is a total blow on my expectations. I had planted two hectares of tobacco where I was expecting to have high yields. My only regret is that I had not insured the crop. It’s a sad loss,” said Mr Nyanhemwa.

He said the storm also affected his two neighbours who lost about six hectares of their tobacco crop.

“Most farmers here at Portlett Farm plant on one or two-hectare pieces of land. A neighbour, Mr Mutisi lost all the four hectares he had planted while my other neighbour lost two hectares,” he said.

Farmers said the crop was of a high quality and they were expecting to get good prices at the tobacco auction floors. It emerged that most farmers had also not insured their crop against damage or loss. A Banket farmer, Brian Nyamhunga of Coulbourne Farm near Banket said heavy rains also destroyed his irrigated tobacco.

“I am not sure on the hectarage, but some leaves were ripped off. There was, however, no noticeable damage on dry tobacco,” he said.

Farmers said they had not suffered such losses since being resettled on the farms. Tobacco farmers in Mashonaland West had in the past weeks been worried about the dry spell, but the rains have been heavy and damaging.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union first vice president Mr Berean Mukwende has urged all the tobacco farmers to insure their crops saying disasters due to climate change were proving to be unpredictable.

“The unpredictable climate change in the country and region at large, which has brought heavy and violent rains, should be a wake-up call to tobacco farmers as these conditions can damage their crop. Not only hailstorms are a threat to tobacco production, but a lot of farmers have lost their good crop at the final stages after their barns catch fire,” he said.

He said hailstorms and tobacco barn fires were the major risks leading to losses for most farmers. Farmers were expecting to harvest at least 3 000kg per hectare.

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