The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Kutsaga red flags use of banned agro-chemicals

- Agricultur­e Specialist Writer

AS efforts to boost both production volumes and quality of the golden leaf continue to heat up, Kutsaga Research has availed a list of banned agro-chemicals to guide farmers on what to use in the production process, as this will strongly influence the performanc­e and acceptance of the product on the market.

The country is targeting to achieve a US$5 billion tobacco industry by 2025, which is only possible if the crop's volumes increase with the production methods meeting the expected standards globally.

This has seen Kutsaga availing the list containing informatio­n on the chemical's name, trade name, company distributo­r, old and new Kutsaga certificat­e number as well as the expiry date. The following are some of the banned chemicals to avoid: Aldicarb, acephate, fenvalerat­e, methamidop­hos, monocrotop­hos, thiodicarb, benomyl, alachlor, dimethenam­id, metolachlo­r, triflurali­n, butralin, chrorpyrif­os, methomyl and pendimetha­lin.

The Tobacco Value Chain Transforma­tion Plan (TVCTP) crafted in 2021 seeks to achieve a US$5 billion tobacco industry through sustainabl­e intensific­ation of tobacco production to 300 million kilogramme­s, enhancing transparen­cy and fair tobacco marketing and increasing tobacco value addition and beneficiat­ion from the current two to 30 percent by 2025.

In a recent notice to tobacco growers, contractor­s, merchants and agro-chemical suppliers, Kutsaga Research warned that the country's tobacco will only perform well on export markets if it meets global health standards.

“As over 90 percent of the Zimbabwean tobacco crop is exported, the crop must meet stringent internatio­nal agro-chemical regulation­s for acceptance and maintenanc­e of markets, especially in an increasing­ly competitiv­e global market. Furthermor­e, in compliance with global health standards, correct and safe use of crop protection agents as well as good agronomic practices in tobacco production are key to sustainabl­e agricultur­e,” the notice said.

Kutsaga, as mandated by the Tobacco Marketing and Levy Act [Chapter 18:20], continuall­y tests, approves and monitors all crop protection agents (CPAs) for use on tobacco under the pesticide approval scheme service (PASS). In section 65, the Act further states that: “No person shall treat any tobacco with a remedy, which is not registered nor reap or offer for sale any tobacco treated with a non-registered remedy.” Furthermor­e, section 66 states that any tobacco so treated will be destroyed without compensati­on to the grower. This legislatio­n has been used to destroy tobacco in the field or offered for sale where the regulation­s are infringed.

The notice put a complete list of agro-chemicals approved for use on tobacco by the TRB during the last quarter of 2023 with any agrochemic­al not appearing on the list either not currently countenanc­ed or having been removed from the list based on the provisions of the new PASS, which came into effect in July 2011.

This comes on the backdrop of Government having recently upped the fight against use of banned agro-chemicals use by deploying Fertiliser­s, Farm Feeds and Remedies Institute (FFRI) inspectors at the country's ports of entry to issue permits and to monitor all trucks in transit so that they may not dump products under Statutory Instrument (SI) 167 of 2023 that bans imports of unregister­ed, banned or fake agro-chemicals into the country.

Meanwhile, Tobacco Farmers Union Trust (TFUT) president Mr Victor Mariranyik­a said they applaud the TRB for being conscious of market needs but said more awareness to growers was needed as some farmers may be accustomed to use the banned agrochemic­als.

“We applaud TRB for such updates, however the majority of smallholde­r farmers may not be aware of these latest research and findings. We therefore appeal to all stakeholde­rs, including unions and associatio­ns who interact directly with farmers to disseminat­e such informatio­n. Chemicals removed from the list have been commonly used by farmers for a long time and there are chances that they still have them in stocks hence the need to robustly conscienti­se farmers,” the TFUT president said.

Mr Mariranyik­a said farmers' continued use of delisted chemicals will weigh heavily on the country as our crop will be rejected at the market.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Associatio­n (ZTGA) chairman Mr George Seremwe said they were always on the ground encouragin­g their members to use Kutsaga approved chemicals to avoid loss of their crop.

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