TIMB introduces new tobacco curing system
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has introduced a Natural Air Curing System (NACS), also known as “chigaffa” to the local tobacco industry to prevent farmers from losing marketable volumes due to curing ban capacity limitations.
Air-cured tobacco is carried out by hanging the leaves in a well-ventilated barn, where they are allowed to dry over a period of between four and eight weeks. Air-cured tobacco is generally low in sugar content, which gives tobacco smoke a light, smooth, semi-sweet flavour. These tobacco leaves usually have a high nicotine content.
Once the curing process is complete, the tobacco is bundled and moved to a storage facility for grading before being moved to a processing facility for further drying.
According to tobacco leaf experts, the product can be stored for years, allowing it to mature and improve flavour. TIMB said the NACS would reduce farmers’ post-harvest losses and improve farmer viability, profitability, and sustainability.
“All along, we have been producing flue-cured tobacco (sometimes)…ripen all at once and (the) existing curing facilities may not (be able to) accommodate all the ripe tobacco,” said TIMB. “Instead of letting it rot, a farmer can do Chigaffa (system).”
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second biggest foreign currency earner after gold and is grown by nearly 150 000 smallholder farmers who were resettled under the land reform program. The introduction of the naturally dried Virginia tobacco is in line with the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan, which seeks to increase tobacco output to 300 million kg by 2025.
It also seeks to grow revenue from the industry to US$5 billion, increase local funding of the crop to 70 percent and raise the level of value addition to 30 percent.
“By producing natural Virginia tobacco, which is a more sustainable product, using more natural systems, we believe the local tobacco industry will generate a wider range of qualities for customers on the global market, creating demand and encouraging investment for the ultimate longevity of the Zimbabwean tobacco industry,” said TIMB.
“The objective of this initiative is to explore the potential for more sustainable tobacco production via the NACS methodologies which use less fuel or consume fewer natural resources.
With the global anti-smoking campaign remaining a huge threat to Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry, TIMB chairman Patrick Devenish has called for sustainable ways of growing and curing the crop to avoid losing an increasingly sensitive customer base.
“We emphasise that this year and in the years to come we should cure our golden leaf sustainably,” said Mr Devenish during the official launch of the 2023 tobacco marketing season. “Sustainability involves looking at the climate as well as profitability.
“Upgrade to efficient curing facilities that use less energy and desist from deforestation.
“If you still have wood-fired curing facilities, use wood from sustainable woodlots.
“For your future operations, plant trees. At least 0,3 hectares for every hectare of tobacco grown.
“There is a ready market for Zimbabwe flavoured tobacco, but the World Health Organisation FCTC is fighting us to ban tobacco. The global demand for tobacco is going down and if we ignore the Sustainable Tobacco Programme we will lose our international off-takers and this venture will become unprofitable,” Devenish added.
With the new natural curing system, farmers’ cost of production will be reduced, and profitability increased, thereby reducing farmer incentive to side market. Tobacco merchant Atlas Agri will be partnering with the TIMB to spearhead this new initiative.