2016/17 season registers more tobacco farmers

Source: 2016/17 season registers more tobacco farmers | The Herald February 28, 2017

Business Reporter
THERE has been a 17 percent increase in registrations by tobacco farmers for the 2016/17 farming season, latest official figures have shown, with output forecast marginally higher than the 2016/17 harvest.

The increase in farmers who registered for the 2016/17 (Flue Cured Virginia) tobacco season also resulted in the area planted growing to 107 hectares from 95,790 ha put under crop for the 2015/16 season.

Last season, farmers sold 202 million kilogrammes of tobacco, earning the country well over half a billion dollars despite the El Nino induced drought. Output is this year estimated at over 205 million kg.

The gold leaf, which saw hundreds of thousands of indigenous farmers taking over production from predominantly white farmers prior to land reform, is Zimbabwe’s single biggest foreign currency earner.

It is expected onset of the 2016/17 marketing season on the 15th of next month will thaw hard currency shortages, choking imports including for critical inputs, machines, equipment, chemicals and medicines.

A registration update as at February 13 from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board shows that registrations rose to 82 254 from 72 531 in 2015/16 season, as interest in the lucrative leaf gold remain strong.

Communal farmers constitute the bulk of registered farmers, 38 864, followed by resettled A1 and A2 farmers at 31 621 and 6 312, respectively.

A total of 5 457 small scale commercial farmers are engaged in tobacco farming.

The figures from TIMB show that Mashonaland West province recorded the highest increase in registrations at 31 958 farmers, a 16 percent jump from 2015/16 farming season.

Mashonaland West had the second highest figure at 29 873 registrations, a 19 percent surge while Manicaland saw a 21 percent increase to 10 650 for this season.

Registrations rose 9 percent in Mashonaland East to 9 898 farmers, but declined markedly (45 percent, 49 percent and 40 percent, respectively) in the non-traditional tobacco farming provinces of Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland.

TIMB indicated that new registrations skipped 65 percent for the 2016/17 farming season to 14 919 compared to 9 057 the prior season.

The figures show that of the new registrations for the 2016/17 season, 7 492 are communal farmers, 6 500 A1, 557 A2 and 370 small scale (commercial). Contracted growers for 2016/17 totalled 68 180.

Most of the tobacco in Zimbabwe is planted on dry land, which covers 90,790 ha of the land planted compared to 80 000 ha the prior season.

Initial assessment of this year’s irrigated showed the crop is medium to heavy bodied. Average yield ranges between 2 000—2 600kg/ha for commercial sector and between 1 200 – 1 800kg/ha for other sectors.

The dry land crop is light to medium bodied. Average yield ranges between 1 600—2 000kg/ha for commercial sector and 1 000-1 200kg/ha for other sectors. The industry regulator said average yield for both irrigated and dry land crop ranges between 1 800 – 2 100kg/ha.

TIMB said establishment of the main dry land crop was affected by late onset of rains while the continuous rain fall has affected operations. TIMB said humid conditions have prolonged curing periods.

Other challenges faced by farmers due to prolonged rains include leaching of nutrients and water logging leading to flush and false ripening.

Farmers have also faced shortage of top dressing fertilisers on the market as well as shortage of cash leading to labour crisis, TIMB said, as most farm workers prefer to offer their services on cash basis.