Irrigated tobacco harvesting to start month end
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