Tobacco seeds sales increased 10 percent to about 741kg in two days of trade to August 26 compared to about 669kg in the same period last year as planting for the 2016 /17 planting season commences.
Assuming that all the 740 656kg are translated into crops this translates to 148 131 hectares of land under tobacco in the coming season.
The Tobacco Research Board, mandated to direct, control and carry out tobacco research in Zimbabwe to maximise economic value from sustainable and responsible tobacco production through the development and provision of elite varieties and innovative agro-based services and products, said the amount of seed going out coupled with other initiatives under way could lead to a better tobacco season.
TRB assistant general manager responsible for research and extension Dr Susan Dimbi told The Herald Business that the board had 2000 hectares of seedlings available for growers at it its Kutsaga Research and Banket centres.
Of the 2000 hectares, 1000 hectares was for the September planting season while the remainder is for planting until December.
“About 154 hectares of seedlings were collected by growers in the first days of trade. About 1 700 hectares are at Kutsaga while about 400 hectares are at Banket,” said Dr Dimbi.
With regard to promoting the uptake of tobacco seedlings, the price of seedlings per hectare has been slashed to $398 per hectare from $465 per hectare.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s top foreign currency earner with exports topping 66 864 218kg valued at $336 354 372 as at September 1 this year.
This, however, shows a decline from exports of 75 260 737kg valued at $384 205 171 as at the same period last year.
China leads the destinations of tobacco exports from Zimbabwe absorbing 21 905 422 kg valued at $174 849 025 as at the beginning of this month.
South Africa absorbed 11 331 926kg valued at $31 811 542 to pick the second major importer of Zimbabwe’s golden leaf.
Some destinations in the top five importers of Zimbabwe’s tobacco include Belgium – 5 183 340kg at $24 289 156, UAE – 5 388 833kg at $13 960 428 at an average price of $2,59 per kg and Indonesia which absorbed 4 375 658 at $19 913 312 at an average price of $4,55 per kg.
TRB is intensifying efforts to improve production and quality of tobacco. The board has introduced a float seedling production system- a hydroponic technique for raising tobacco seedlings.
The objective is to eventually replace the conventional seedling production system, in which the ozone-depleting Methyl-bromide is widely used for nematode and weed control.
The float system, besides being eco-friendly, is associated with many other benefits including a reduction in seedbed area and water requirement, more efficient use of fertilisers, and the production of superior robust seedlings that can better withstand harsh field transplanting conditions.
Dr Dimbi said the float seedling production system saves the farmer labour, chemical and fertiliser bills as it is more compact and not spread over a wide area as in conventional seedling production.
For instance, the float seedling production system requires only 20 square metres to produce seedling for one hectare where the conventional system requires about six times the land size at 120 square metres for one hectare.