Irrigated tobacco hectarage increases 146pc Increasing hectarage under irrigation is a mitigatory measure in the face of El Niño threat

Agriculture Specialist Writer

THE area under irrigated tobacco production has surged 146 percent from 4 327 hectares by September 25 last season against 10 656 hectares in the comparable period this year, as planting of the crop continues across the country.

The Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Service (ARDAS) weekly report dated September 25 shows that the 4 327 hectares that had been transplanted during the corresponding period last year were planted by the trio of Mashonaland provinces of East, West and Central provinces. Manicaland has since joined the three for this season’s 10 656 hectares.

The report also revealed that some growers in Mashonaland East have since started dryland transplanting with 110 hectares already planted in Mashonaland East.

Mashonaland East province has so far increased the area under irrigation by 121 percent from 1 764 last year to this year’s 3 894 hectares.

Both Mashonaland West and Central provinces have also increased their irrigated area.

The report disclosed that transplanting of irrigated crop was in full swing adding that the condition of dryland tobacco seedlings was in fair to good condition.

Last year 18 607 hectares of tobacco were planted under irrigation. It remains to be seen whether this year the thrust by the Government for adaptation, mitigation and action (AMA) will make growers put more land under irrigation.

The increased irrigation plantings are in line with predictions that the upcoming 2023/24 tobacco season is projected to put the largest area under tobacco if potential field hectarage from seed sales are to translate into reality.

The rebranded Kutsaga has released statistics showing that farmers bought 947 kilogrammes of tobacco seed with potential to cover 189 417 hectares by September 6.

The largest area planted under tobacco was in 2019 in which 146 000 hectares were covered.

The Government crafted the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan that seeks to achieve a US$5 billion tobacco industry by 2025 through localisation of tobacco funding, increased production and productivity, value addition and beneficiation.

The 2023 tobacco marketing season has seen 296 million kilogrammes of tobacco worth US$897 million sold with auction mop up sales done end of last month while contract sales are still trickling in.

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