Senior Agriculture Reporter
More than 20 900 hectares have been put under tobacco, with the planting exceeding the same period last year by almost 32 percent, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has said.
The bulk of the tobacco planted so far is under contract while most smallholder farmers who do not have irrigation are still waiting for effective rains.
In the Ministry’s recent weekly update, Agritex acting director Mr Stancilae Tapererwa said by October 29, planted hectares were 20 911, compared to 15 854ha during the same period last year.
Of the 20 911 hectares planted, Mr Tapererwa said 14 584ha were put under irrigation while 6 377ha were under dry land. During the same period last year, farmers had planted 10 089 ha under irrigation and 5 765 under dryland.
Farmers said planting of tobacco was progressing well, especially for the contracted crop as farmers were guaranteed of all inputs.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said planting of irrigated tobacco was going on well while dryland planting will intensify as rains were expected soon.
“Some work has started,” he said. “Some farmers who do dryland tobacco are waiting for effective rains for them to start planting.
“The tobacco that has been planted so far is largely contracted. However, some farmers may be in need of working capital. Prices of inputs have also gone up and its pushing production costs up. Even if a farmer wants to borrow, the cost of the money is high and this is not good for agriculture.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Dr Shadreck Makombe, said: “Some new farmers are enthusiastic about the crop. There are some farmers who have abandoned tobacco due to frustrations, but we also have some new farmers coming on board.
“We hope the farmers had settled their credits when they left tobacco.”
According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), there are 298 new growers this season compared to 1 624 same period last year.
Government is working towards boosting tobacco production, especially among smallholder farmers.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development introduced the Tobacco Transformation Plan, which is aimed at boosting production through local funding.