Mash Central Bureau
One huge gain from Covid-19 was the decentralisation of tobacco marketing, cutting transport costs for farmers and rejuvenating a swathe of small towns and communities around them.
Mvurwi is one example.
Now Ethical Leaf Tobacco, one of the leading tobacco contracting companies in the country, has opened an auction floor in Mvurwi and is expecting a good marketing season.
The decentralisation drive will reduce transport costs and risk of theft for farmers in Mvurwi who used to travel to Bindura, showing how decentralisation leads to more decentralisation.
Ethical Leaf Tobacco public relations and marketing manager Mrs Patience Mushore-Chizodza said they were expecting to buy 5 million kg of tobacco, up from last year’s 4,6 million kg.
Speaking at a field day at Vigilla Farm in Mvurwi, Mrs Mushore-Chizodza said: “We have adopted a paradigm shift and embraced social marketing through various strategies to empower smallholder tobacco farmers.
“This year, the company has embarked on a plough back initiative in all our four tobacco farming regions by recognising the best farmers who have shown vigilance and best farming practices.”
Mr Tapera Gotora, the owner of Vigilla Farm, said Vision 2030 could only be achieved through hard work.
He thanked the Government for its robust agriculture transformation strategies supporting them towards an ambitious US$5 billion tobacco industry by 2025.
Since last season, he managed to increase his tobacco crop quality and number of hectares planted due to support from Agritex and the contracting company Ethical Leaf.
He was expecting 3 000kg from his 2,5ha, but because of leaching caused by incessant rains, production had been reduced to 2 000kg.
Mr Gotora urged youths in farming to keep records so they could learn precisely what works and what did not because farming is a serious business.
“The secret to successful tobacco farming is paying attention to advice from extension officers,” he said.
“Tobacco farming has no shortcuts and requires dedication. Cellphone farming is not viable in tobacco farming because it needs constant nurturing.
“Small-scale farmers lack funding to enable them to produce to full capacity. I am grateful to my contracting company for availing sufficient inputs and knowledge.”
His wife, Sarah Mchindo urged couples to go together to auction floors to avoid domestic violence.
The couple are now at the third reap.
As the tobacco marketing season draws near TIMB technical officer for Mvurwi Mr Wonder Matizamhuka warned farmers against side marketing.
“As tobacco floors open on March 31, sell your crop to the company that contracted you. Side marketing is a crime and this year we will be arresting people,” he said.
“Don’t look for middlemen at tobacco floors; a good crop sells itself. Unscrupulous people moving in farms buying your crop are ripping you off. Go with your tobacco to the floors.
“A farmer must be able to read how the season is progressing which in turn determines the topping height of their crop. The quality of the season and planting date also determines crop topping.
Zimbabwe Integrated Commercial Tobacco Farmers Union president Mrs Maivepi Jiti urged smallholder farmers to use the knowledge they were getting to become successful commercial farmers.
She said international boards governing tobacco production and sale were against use of child labour in tobacco farming.
“In our culture, we let children assist on our farms but others consider the practice as child labour. We will be raising awareness on this issue,” she said.