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Tobacco seedling scheme for Matabeleland

by Staff reporter
12 Nov 2019 at 07:10hrs | Views
DIVERSFIED agro-based concern, Mhuri Farming plans to roll out a tobacco seedling-growing scheme in Matabeleland to promote production of the crop in the region.

Of late, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has indicated that some farmers from Matabeleland region, which is predominantly known for livestock farming, were slowly venturing into production of the golden leaf.

In an interview after the launch of a US$200 000 tobacco seedling-growing programme in Karoi, Mashonaland West province on Friday, Mhuri Farming chief executive officer Mr Pardon Mhuri said their technical team was already on the ground in Matabeleland seeking land for tobacco farming.

He said the team was at the same time identifying existing and prospective tobacco farmers to be supplied with seedlings to enhance production.

"We have sent our technical guys in Matabeleland region to assess areas where we can get land for tobacco. "They are compiling a report on areas with good soils for tobacco farming as well as identifying existing and prospective tobacco farmers that we can work with to enhance the quality of their crop through provision of quality seedlings," said Mr Mhuri.

Addressing the gathering during the launch of the scheme, Mr Mhuri said they also intend to expand the seedling-growing project to all tobacco-growing regions in the country. Other tobacco-growing regions are Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces.

According to TIMB, the country has more than 180 000 registered tobacco farmers.

It is hoped that this year's 8-hectare nursery seedling-scheme in Karoi will produce seedlings for 20 000 hectares in Mashonaland West.

"Based on our levels of production, we are able to produce seedlings for 20 000ha but our challenge is lack of adequate land. The project that you see is on rented land and we are therefore appealing to Government to provide us with land," he said.

Mr Mhuri said quality seedlings were critical in the tobacco growing process as they determine yield and quality of the crop, which in turn has an impact on the farmer's revenue. He said his organisation was also taking sustainable farming practices seriously and thus it was giving every seedling buyer 400 gumtree seedlings to plant in their respective areas.

Some of the tobacco farmers who spoke to Business Chronicle after the launch commended Mhuri Farming for coming up with such an initiative saying it would go a long way in improving the quality and yield of their crop.

A tobacco farmer from village 5, Kasimure Ward in Karoi, Mr Japhet Chidarikire, said: "I feel excited about the launch of the tobacco seedling growing scheme and as farmers we hope this season we will be able to access quality seedlings. It is the quality of the crop that determines the tobacco price at the auction floors." Mrs Merenia Kadema echoed similar sentiments saying she was happy that farmers were being provided with gumtree seedlings after buying tobacco seedlings.

"This scheme will go a long way in addressing the challenges of deforestation," she said.  

In the past concerns have been raised over the cutting down of trees to cure tobacco leading to deforestation, which impacts negatively on climate change.

Said Mr Najo Wailes: "One of the reasons why our crop has not been fetching favourable prices at the auction floors is largely to do with the quality. We keep our fingers crossed that Mhuri Farming will stick to their word that their project will offer quality seedlings to us as farmers.

"We are also happy that the Mhuri Farming seedling programme will also create competition in the market because we have been buying seedlings from some companies here in Karoi at prices that are relatively high."

Tobacco is Zimbabwe's largest export after gold and has over the years been pivotal in supporting liquidity in the economy. According to the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, the crop accounts for 15 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product and 25 percent of total exports.

Zimbabwe exports the golden leaf to more than 60 countries around the world with the major consumers of flue-cured tobacco being China, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Statistics from TIMB show that this year 259 million kilogrammes of tobacco were delivered at the auction floors compared to 253 million kg in 2018.

Source - chronicle