Tobacco continues on upward trajectory

Tanyaradzwa Kutaura
The 2018-2019 tobacco planting season commences with the irrigated crop next week, amid projections the final season’s harvest will surpass the 2017-2018 record output of at least 244 000 kgs.
Last season’s crop raked in over $700 million.

Tobacco farming is among the top foreign currency earners in the country and has been on an increase for the past ten years.
Statistics from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (Timb) show that as at 10 August, a total of 92 908 farmers had registered to grow the crop, as compared to the 75 681 recorded during the same period last year.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) chief executive officer Mr Rodney Ambrose told The Sunday Mail that while it is still too early to estimate the seasonal increase in hectares, tobacco seeds sold to date indicate a positive output.

“Planting will start on the 1st of September and for now, it is still too early to come up with the target area, but generally there is a seasonal increase in hectares under irrigation in the commercial sector.

“Small scale farmers are still largely reliant on planting with rains and these beef up total production significantly.
“Seed sale figures available indicate that as of August 10th, 2018, a total of 812 928gms seeds had been sold, compared to 787 055gms that were sold during the same period last year.

“The potential area to be planted out of the seeds sold so far is at least 120 000 hectares.
“Indications at present show that a crop exceeding 240 million kilograms could be produced again in the coming season,” he said.
Meanwhile, ZTA has said farmers still sitting on the previous season’s tobacco stalks should urgently destroy the plants to pave way for the new crop.

Tobacco experts say stalks have the high potential of spreading diseases to new crops, even those kilometres away.
The stalks are known to provide a sanctuary for pests to multiply and harbour insects that transmit diseases like the Potato Virus Y.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been paying out some export incentives to the tobacco growers, thereby resulting in an improvement in cash availability.

Tobacco sustains the livelihoods of an estimated three million Zimbabweans.

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