TIMB bails out 5 000 small­holder grow­ers

The Manica Post - - Business / Farming - Love­more Kadzura Rusape Correspondent

A LEAST 5 000 small­holder tobacco grow­ers have ben­e­fit­ted from the Tobacco In­put and Credit Scheme that was in­tro­duced this sea­son to res­cue those re­jected by tobacco con­trac­tors.

The in­puts scheme was be­ing ad­min­is­tered by the Tobacco In­dus­try and Mar­ket­ing Board (TIMB).

Fund­ing was availed by the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe.

TIMB spokesper­son Mr Ishe­unesu Moyo told The Man­ica Post this week that 6 000 hectares of tobacco, at cost of $1 500 per hectare, were planted un­der the scheme this sea­son.

“We have at least 5 000 tobacco grow­ers who are re­ceiv­ing sup­port un­der the Tobacco In­put and Credit Scheme (TICKS) which is be­ing ad­min­is­tered by TIMB. The fund­ing is from the RBZ, and Agrib­ank is han­dling the money. About 6 000 hectares have been planted un­der the scheme, and de­spite the pro­longed dry spell, the crop looks good,” said Mr Moyo.

TIMB re­gional man­ager Mr Em­manuel Matsvaire said TIMB was bail­ing out grow­ers, es­pe­cially small­hold­ers, who were left out by con­tract­ing firms.

“We look for and con­tract them. We sup­ply all the in­puts nec­es­sary to pro­duce a high qual­ity tobacco. We are not com­pet­ing with ex­ist­ing tobacco con­trac­tors, but we are com­ple­ment­ing them so that the auc­tion­ing sys­tem does not die. Con­tract­ing com­pa­nies are do­ing very well in as­sist­ing farm­ers to pro­duce tobacco in abun­dance, but due to the ever in­creas­ing num­ber of farm­ers some will even­tu­ally be left out and those are the ones TIMB has stepped in to help.

“We want to en­cour­age our farm­ers to de­sist from side mar­ket­ing so that com­pa­nies that sup­ported them are not short changed. We urge them also to em­brace crop in­sur­ance so that in the event of hail­storms they do not emerge as losers,” said Mr Matsvaire.

Agrib­ank head of strat­egy and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment Mr Joseph Mverecha said farm­ers must work hard and make sure they pay­back the loans to en­able the scheme to roll on for years.

“We got sub­stan­tial fund­ing from the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe and we part­nered with TIMB with a view to em­power farm­ers and en­sure that they pro­duce qual­ity tobacco. Farm­ers must pay back the loans so that the scheme con­tin­ues for years to come.

“Tobacco is a very lu­cra­tive crop and last sea­son it earned the coun­try about $600 mil­lion of for­eign cur­rency. This scheme is well struc­tured that a farmer re­alises good prof­its,” said Mr Mverecha.

This in­ter­ven­tion partly ac­counts for the eight per­cent in­crease in the area put un­der tobacco for the 2017/18 sea­son in Man­i­ca­land.

Sta­tis­tics from TIMB show that as at Jan­uary 31, a to­tal of 21 302 hectares had been put un­der the golden leaf in Man­i­ca­land com­pared to 19 677 ha dur­ing the same pe­riod last sea­son.

There was a rise in the rain-fed crop to 19 684 ha from 17 363 ha in the same pe­riod last year as farm­ers were ex­pect­ing more rain­fall.

As a re­sult, there was a slight de­crease in the area put un­der ir­ri­ga­tion to 1 618 ha from 2 314 ha in the prior pe­riod.

Man­i­ca­land reg­is­tered a 232 per­cent rise in new regis­tra­tions from 1 543 in the 2016/17 sea­son to 5 122 this sea­son.

The prov­ince also reg­is­tered a 67 per­cent in­crease in reg­is­tered tobacco grow­ers to 17 714 from 10 630 dur­ing the same pe­riod last sea­son.

The num­ber of com­mu­nal farm­ers tak­ing up tobacco farm­ing has grown to 58 434 as at the review pe­riod.

There are 43 769 A1 farm­ers, 7 588 A2 farm­ers and 6 734 small scale grow­ers who have reg­is­tered to grow the golden leaf.

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