Ir­ri­gated to­bacco har­vest­ing to start month end

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Oliver Kazunga

HAR­VEST­ING of ir­ri­gated to­bacco is ex­pected to start at the end of this month with the Gov­ern­ment urg­ing early open­ing of auc­tion floors for the golden leaf.

Agron­o­mist and to­bacco ex­pert, Mr Thomas Nher­era, said yes­ter­day that sev­eral farm­ers who have ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture planted the cash crop in Septem­ber.

He could not im­me­di­ately dis­close the hec­tarage put un­der ir­ri­gated to­bacco but said most of the crop was due for har­vest­ing.

“Har­vest­ing of the ir­ri­gated crop is ex­pected to be­gin at the end of this month as most of the crop is al­most due for har­vest­ing. Soon af­ter har­vest­ing, the farm­ers will be cur­ing the crop ahead of the mar­ket­ing sea­son next year,” said Mr Nher­era.

He said dur­ing the crop­ping sea­son a num­ber of farm­ers through­out the coun­try ex­pe­ri­enced water chal­lenges as most water sources dried up.

This was due to the long dry-spell ex­pe­ri­enced across the coun­try due to drought.

“Gen­er­ally, water was the ma­jor chal­lenge dur­ing the ir­ri­gated crop plant­ing sea­son. Most of the streams dried-up but those farm­ers whose seedlings man­aged to sur­vive the harsh dry con­di­tions did very well af­ter trans­plant­ing.

“The qual­ity of the crop was, how­ever, not com­pro­mised as long as the seedlings man­aged to sur­vive be­fore trans­plant­ing,” he said.

Mr Nher­era said plant­ing of the rain-fed to­bacco was presently un­der­way. Tra­di­tion­ally, to­bacco plant­ing ends on De­cem­ber 31. Statis­tics from the To­bacco In­dus­try and Mar­ket­ing Board show that as of Novem­ber 11, about 72 575 farm­ers had reg­is­tered to grow the golden leaf in the 2016/17 sum­mer crop­ping sea­son.

Of the reg­is­tered grow­ers so far, 13 586 farm­ers are new en­trants.

To­bacco farm­ing has over the years been a crit­i­cal sec­tor in the econ­omy earn­ing the coun­try the much-needed for­eign cur­rency through ex­ports to dif­fer­ent parts of the world. Since 2009, the to­bacco in­dus­try has been piv­otal in pro­vid­ing liq­uid­ity sup­port to the econ­omy.

Dur­ing the to­bacco off sea­son, for­eign cur­rency re­serves go down. As such Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe Gover­nor Dr John Man­gudya has hinted that stake­hold­ers in the to­bacco sec­tor should con­sider open­ing auc­tion floors ear­lier in or­der to ease the cash short­ages.

This year’s to­bacco mar­ket­ing sea­son opened on March 30. The cen­tral bank boss has an­nounced that to­bacco farm­ers who sold their crop dur­ing the just ended mar­ket­ing sea­son will re­ceive a cu­mu­la­tive $30 mil­lion as ex­port in­cen­tives by the end of the month.

This comes af­ter a to­tal of 73 343 grow­ers de­liv­ered 202 mil­lion kilo­grammes of the golden leaf dur­ing the 2015/16 mar­ket­ing sea­son, earn­ing just short of $600 mil­lion from to­bacco sales.

The ex­port incentive seeks to re­ward to­bacco grow­ers with a five per­cent bonus on for­eign cur­rency gen­er­ated. — @okazunga

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