Freak storm shreds tobacco in Makoni

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Manicaland & Mashonaland East News - Sa­muel Kadun­gure Mutare Bureau

A HAIL­STORM re­cently de­stroyed 60 per­cent of high value tobacco in Makoni District, leav­ing most largescale farm­ers ag­o­nis­ing over their pre­cious source of in­come just weeks be­fore har­vest.

Most of the tobacco planted on Septem­ber 1 took a se­vere bat­ter­ing from the freak storm, putting an abrupt end to har­vest­ing that had just started hugely frus­trat­ing the grow­ers who were look­ing for a rea­son­able re­turn from their in­vest­ment.

The crop took the brunt of the rains that started last Thurs­day shat­ter­ing 60 per­cent of the crop along its path.

The worst af­fected farms were in Head­lands and Rusape, es­sen­tially the tobacco grow­ing hub of Man­i­ca­land.

One of the worst af­fected farm­ers, Mr Den­ford Mutwiwa, of Mutwiwa Farm in Head­lands, said it was dis­turb­ing that 75 hectares of his crop suf­fered dam­age a few days be­fore har­vest. His first reap was ex­pected at the end of this month.

“I am still ag­o­nis­ing over the bru­tal ef­fects of the hailstones, that de­stroyed 75ha of my tobacco a few weeks be­fore har­vest. The sen­si­tive tobacco leaves were shred­ded, poke-marked and ripped by hailstones. The crop was at the sen­si­tive growth stage (18 leaves), but was pruned, and I am in a quandary and un­sure if it will re­bound or not,” said Mr Mutwiwa.

He said although the crop was in­sured, the hailstones dealt him a dev­as­tat­ing blow and ex­ter­mi­nated hopes of a bumper har­vest.

“I am known for grow­ing high qual­ity tobacco, and the 75ha is gone for good. The crop was al­most ripe. There is noth­ing (left) at the fields. Even though the crop was in­sured, it was depressing to dis­cover that the en­tire crop I had worked on so hard was wiped out in a flash just like that.

“I had wel­comed the rains as a bless­ing, but sadly they dashed my hopes of a bumper har­vest af­ter my al­most-ripe tobacco was shred­ded to­tally,” said Mr Mutwiwa.

Tobacco As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe (TAZ) pres­i­dent Mr David Guy Mu­tasa, whose crop was par­tially dam­aged, said the sit­u­a­tion at some farms was “so ex­ten­sive” that even if the crop sur­vived, longer-term im­pacts, such as poor leaf qual­ity, were likely.

“The im­pact in our Chimbi area was min­i­mal, but in Head­lands it was se­vere. Tobacco that can re­cover af­ter be­ing de­fo­li­ated is one at early stage of growth, and the rest of the crop that is at the top­ping stage will be a write-off. The plants were pruned and the growth points were dam­aged. That crop is gone for good and those farm­ers should con­sider grow­ing maize on those fields to get a bet­ter yield, which will com­pen­sate for the deficit that in­sur­ers may not cover.

“It’s quite a bad start to the sum­mer crop­ping sea­son, as the larger per­cent­age of large-scale com­mer­cial farm­ers in Head­lands were hard hit by the hailstones,” said Mr Mu­tasa.

Pro­vin­cial agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer for Man­i­ca­land Mrs Philipa Rwambiwa said in some cases the dam­age was ex­ten­sive while in oth­ers it was mod­er­ate and the crop could fully re­cover.

She said re­gard­less of the mishap, farm­ers still had am­ple time to re­plant.

“They can still re­plant if the seedlings are avail­able. We still have time for plant­ing. We en­cour­age farm­ers to in­sure their crops.

“I heard that some farm­ers had in­sured their crop. We have in­stances where the dam­aged crop is at early stage of growth, and may fully re­cover. Lower dam­aged leaves can be re­moved. We also have the Septem­ber 1, 2017 crop which was de­stroyed and chances of re­cov­ery are very re­mote,” she said.

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