PREPARATIONS for the 2017/2018 tobacco growing season are at an advanced stage with 91 693 farmers having registered to grow the golden crop from 65 758 who had registered in the same period last year.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
Statistics from Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) show that there are 45 707 communal farmers, 34 757 (A1), 5 829 (A2) and 5 400 small-scale farmers who have registered to grow the golden leaf.
“There is 8, 4% increase in seed sales. For the 2016/17 marketing season there was 190 million kg sold. Judging by the increase in seed sales and registrations, all things being even, 2017/18 season has good prospects,” TIMB public relations and communications manager Isheunesu Moyo, said.
As of September 15, seed that had been sold was 873 kg projected to cover 145 603 hectares up from 805kg covering 134 305 hectares sold during the same period last year.
Federation of Farmers’ Union chairman Wonder Chabikwa said the irrigated crop was planted on September 1 and dryland tobacco was now being transplanted until end of November.
“Irrigated crop was planted by September 1 and crop is growing well. We are happy that following a good rainfall season our water bodies are sufficient to irrigate the crop. Farmers are now transplanting dryland seedlings and it’s work in progress. We hope it will go on until the end of November,” Chabikwa said.
He said there was sufficient supply of electricity to power the irrigation, albeit some areas where electrical faults take time to be attended to.
There has been an 113% jump in the number of new tobacco growers from 12 659 last year to 26 976 in the 2017/2018 season.
Tobacco farming plays a fulcrum role in Zimbabwe’s economy as it is a major source of foreign currency.
The golden crop is key in oiling the country’s nostro accounts to enable the importation of key commodities such as fuel, raw materials and electricity.
In 2014, the tobacco export earning raked in $ 772,6 million, rising to $855 million in 2015. It further grew to $933,3 million in 2016 and it is projected to grow to $980 million by year end.
Last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe deposited $29,8 million to tobacco growers as the apex bank moves to implement the 5% export incentive scheme meant to grow exports by motivating farmers to grow the crop.