Tobacco farmers defy odds to plant 104 000ha Source: TIMB weekly reports

Edgar Vhera Agriculture Specialist Writer

AFTER ending 2023 on a depressing note in which this year’s tobacco hectarage was 27 percent shy of last year’s figures during the corresponding period, farmers have sprung a pleasant surprise by narrowing the gap to within five percent of the 2023 hectarage as of January 5 this year, thanks to the current wet spell.

Statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) weekly reports show that the area planted under tobacco in the 2023/24 season has been smaller than that of the previous season since November 24.

A comparative analysis of the two seasons reveal that the area planted under tobacco in the current season has always been lower than that for the previous season, with the figure widening from a 14 percent decline by week ending November 24 to 27 percent by week ending December 15.

The decline has since shrunk to only five percent as at January 5.

A total of 103 652 hectares have been planted under both dryland and irrigated tobacco nationally, with Mashonaland East and Midlands provinces surpassing their 2022/23 hectarages by 13 percent.

On the one hand, 112 916 growers have since registered to grow the golden leaf this season compared to the 147 748 who had registered during the same period last year.  Contracted registered growers account for 93 percent of all the farmers, the report said.

Government’s move to extend the dates for destruction of tobacco seedbeds to January 15 has given farmers the urge to continue planting with some experts saying this season’s area could end up slightly larger than that of the previous season.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association (ZTGA) chairman Mr George Seremwe said the prevailing wet weather patterns was likely to result in the country achieving last season’s hectarage or even slightly exceed it.

“As farmers we are happy with the current weather pattern and believe that we can slightly exceed last year’s hectarage. Tobacco requires water and a lot of heat units, which is good in terms of the quality of the crop,” he said.

Tobacco Farmers Union Trust (TFUT) president Mr Victor Mariranyika concurred saying it was possible for the tobacco planted area to equal last year’s.

“The combined influence of extended planting dates and wet weather conditions from around the Christmas period will likely result in this season’s planted area coming close to or surpassing last year’s. We thank the Government for moving planting dates in response to climate change with the crop generally looking good after the rains, which fell after Christmas,” Mr Mariranyika said.

The country achieved its largest tobacco crop last season when 296 million kilogrammes of the leaf were sold at both the auction and contract floors eclipsing the previous high of 259 million.

The crop yield of 2 543 kilogrammes per hectare achieved last year was the largest over the past 22 years, an indication of success of the land reform programme.

For this season the targeted national tobacco hectarage has been set at 148 500.

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