Harvesting of irrigated tobacco starts
Harvesting of the early planted tobacco has started in areas such as Karoi and Headlands, with farmers impressed with the quality of the crop.
The crop is generally reported to be in good condition and many small-scale farmers, who rely totally on rainfall, are still in the process of planting.
Tobacco Farmers’ Union Trust president Mr Victor Mariranyika this week confirmed that a few farmers with full irrigation had started reaping.
“For the irrigated crop, reaping and curing of the first leaves (primes) has started. For the rain-fed crop, planting is still ongoing. This is a good timeous position. We are very happy that farmers are doing their work timeously.”
Mr Mariranyika advised farmers who are still planting to use herbicides to destroy weeds and pests that may cause damage to the crop.
He said the progress on tobacco farming is satisfactory, adding that the increase in hectarage is a sign of commitment of farmers towards improving agriculture.
Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union president Mrs Monica Chinamasa said farmers are on the ground busy reaping the irrigated crop which was planted on the first week of September.
Mrs Chinamasa said shortage of labour is affecting those who are currently reaping.
“Yes, those who planted early are reaping the irrigated crop. For small scale some are even starting to plant right now. At the moment no challenges are mainly affecting farmers except shortage of labour. Reaping is going on well and at the same time small scale farmers are on the ground busy planting the crop,” she said.
The weekly update from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development showed that tobacco farmers have so far planted 53 571 hectares compared to 38 312 hectares last season.
Statistics also revealed that about 18 614 hectares were put under irrigated tobacco and 34 957 under dryland.
Mashonaland West province was leading in tobacco planting with over 16 834 hectares put under tobacco followed by Manicaland with 15 098 hectares put under tobacco.
Recently, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has increased the number of licensed tobacco contractors from 39 to 42, as more qualified and the rise helps farmers to intensify tobacco planting for the present season.
In Zimbabwe, tobacco is grown under irrigation with a September planting or as a dry-land crop planted out between October and December after enough rain has fallen.
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. The industry and the Government see the bulk of improved production coming from the smallholder farmers who now dominate the growers.
On average the country is currently earning between US$800 million and US$1 billion annually from tobacco exports, with about two thirds ending up in farmer’s hands and the rest earned by the merchants who do the initial processing, the final grading and ensure that the final buyers get exactly what they are looking for.
Tobacco is ranked as one of the most economically important non-food crops in Zimbabwe, earning billions in local currency equivalent annually.