Tobacco farmers step up preps for next season

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The Herald

Senior Reporter
Tobacco farmers have established seedbeds that can be planted out into 11 747 hectares as preparations for the next cropping season advance.

This is a slight decline from the 11 883 hectares prepared during the same period last year.

Farmers are concentrating on tending their seedbeds while some who do dry planting are still mobilising inputs.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) weekly update shows that as at August 4, farmers had planted 1 009 453 square metres of tobacco seedbeds using the conventional systems while 33 532 square metres were planted in float trays.

Although a significant number of farmers prefer to stick to conventional seedlings, tobacco experts have been encouraging the use of float trays. The advantages include a five times reduction in seedbed area, easier transplantation, less chemicals, water and fertiliser requirements, and production of superior, more uniform and drought tolerant seedlings.

But more seedlings might be planted considering the amount of seed sold this year. Farmers bought 664,178kg of tobacco seed compared to 352,225kg during the same period last year. The seed sold so far is equivalent to 107 736 hectares, which is an 82 percent increase from last season seed sales. By this time last year, farmers had acquired tobacco seed equivalent to 58 704 hectares.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union president, Mr Abdul Nyathi said farmers were taking care of their seedbeds ahead of transplanting dates. “The only challenge at the moment is water for irrigation. Dam levels have gone down while some boreholes have dried due to the drought.

“Some farmers are having difficulties irrigating their crop. Costs have also increased as the power charges have increased,” he said. Some farmers had been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic as they were failing to get all the labour they required. Farmers end up having different shifts and in the end it takes longer to complete tasks and it becomes expensive,” he said.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Shadreck Makombe said plans for the next season were already underway and planting of seedbeds was in progress ahead of transplanting of the irrigated seeds on September 1. Most farmers who grow irrigated tobacco are contracted growers.

The majority of farmers find contract farming viable as they get inputs on time. Most contractors also have extension officers who are on the ground, monitoring the production of their crop.

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