Kudakwashe Mhundwa Business Reporter
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) will soon embark on a crop assessment programme with a view to determine the state of the crop and help establish dates for the opening of this year’s marketing season, an official has said.
This comes on the back of farmers having placed at least 79 708 hectares under tobacco during the 2018/19 summer cropping season, up from 74 238 hectares planted during the same period last year, statistics show.
TIMB says at least 62 861 hectares of tobacco is rain fed, while the remainder is under irrigation. The official figures say at least 166 873 farmers have so far registered to grow tobacco during the 2018/19 cropping season, a 49 percent rise from 113 530 growers recorded during the comparable period last year. Of the total number of registered growers, 95 134 are communal farmers.
TIMB public relations manager Isheunesu Moyo said yesterday, in the previous two years, the tobacco marketing season that traditionally starts mid-February, was commencing in March due to delays that were being experienced in the seasons. He said while harvesting on the irrigated crop had started in some parts of the country, the tobacco regulator is preparing to start the crop assessment first.
“Harvesting for the irrigated crop has already started, we will soon be carrying out a crop assessment survey to determine the state of the crop and project the output, which will then inform the market,” said Mr Moyo.
This marketing season, tobacco and cotton growers are expected to be paid 20 percent of their produce in foreign currency, while the Government will retain the remainder to help meet imports of essential commodities. Tobacco has earned a strategic position in the economy because of its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product and foreign currency earnings. Zimbabwe has become the major flue-cured tobacco producer in Africa and occupies fifth position in the world as many communal farmers joined the growing of this lucrative crop following the land reform programme.
The country’s tobacco export earnings closed 2018 at $892 million from 184,1 million kilogrammes exported to different parts of the world. Despite the resurgence of the Potato Virus (PVY), the country still managed to attain the highest tobacco output since the land redistribution programme, breaking the 236 million kg record set by mainly white former commercial during 1999 /2000 season by producing 252 million kg.
Industry players have, however, been calling upon Government to introduce stiff penalties for tobacco growers who are non-compliant to set rules and regulations if it is to stop the spread of diseases that could potentially affect the country’s tobacco exports. The industry has also been experiencing an increase in the registrations of farmers growing the golden leaf.