Elita chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Mashonaland East Province is leading all the country’s provinces in terms of the hectarage that has been put under flue-cured tobacco, having 5 625 hectares under the cash crop out of the 15 296ha planted countrywide. Latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB)’s weekly bulletin show that the 15 296ha of tobacco planted throughout the country is a 0,9 percent increase from the 15 154ha planted in the same period last year.
The bulk of the hectarage, at 13 947, is under irrigation, while 1 349ha is under dry land. Tobacco farmers in Mashonaland East are followed by farmers in Mashonaland West, who have 3 828ha, Mashonaland Central 3 636ha and Manicaland 2 207ha. Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa yesterday said the planting season had been smooth since most farmers were producing the crop under contract. Through contract farming, beneficiaries often access inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals timely. Some contracts even cover labour costs.
“Planting is going on well,” said Mr Chabikwa.
“Most farmers do not have funding challenges as they are under contract. The hot weather is not a huge challenge. Farmers should apply enough water when transplanting to support the plant.” During the 2017 marketing season, farmers sold 189 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco, with contract farmers contributing most of the deliveries at 158 million kgs, while self-financed farmers weighed in with 31 million kgs. Government has come up with a $20 million loan facility to support small-scale tobacco growers and ensure auction floors remain functional following a realisation that the bulk of flue-cured tobacco was being grown under the contract system.