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TIMB sees tobacco output declining

Godfrey Marawanyika

THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has warned that the country’s expected tobacco output may not be realised as growers faced a number of input problems especially the

shortage of fertilisers.

Output for this year is expected at 110 million kg up from last year’s production of 64 million kg. This is however short of the envisaged 160 million kg set by growers and the central bank before onset of the planting season last year.

TIMB represents the country’s major buyers and to date the organisation has 19 “A” class merchants licensed to buy flue-cured tobacco this season, down from 27 last selling season.

“Whilst constraints were experienced in accessing ideal tobacco seedlings as well as timely availability of other tobacco inputs such as fertilisers and crop protection chemicals, a slightly bigger crop size is expected this year compared to last year, due to a significant increase in the numbers of farmers growing the crop,” TIMB said in its Crop Assessment Report for January.

“However, most farmers interviewed are facing labour shortages to reap and cure the crop in time, since labour is demanding much higher wages than what is recommended. “Other constraints experienced are (shortages) of coal to cure the crop as well as an acute shortage of topdressing fertilisers. Due to these constraints, the full potential of the crop that has been planted may not be realised.”

The tobacco selling season is set to start on Tuesday.

The latest report comes at a time when tobacco growers and the central bank have come up with a blueprint known as Vision 160.

The policy was launched last year with the view to see tobacco output rising to 160 million kg this year from a paltry 64 million kg last year.

Vision 160 was implemented by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in conjunction with tobacco growers with the aim of boosting tobacco production in the country.

TIMB said from the early crop that was seen during the assessment, there has been a significant decrease in the area under irrigated crop when compared to previous years.

“However, crops that were assessed are at the 5th to 6th reaping stage and are heavy bodied. Cured lower reapings are predominantly standard lemon, with small proportions of desirable mahogany “R” grade. Some leaf displaying off colour “K” and dry nature “D” styles were also sampled.

Expected yield from this planting is within the range 3000 to 3500kg/ha.”

One of the country’s largest foreign currency earners, the golden leaf production has been on a free-fall since the beginning of the chaotic land reform programme.

From a peak of 237 million kg in 1999, Zimbabwe produced only 64 million kg last year.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Tobacco Development Corporation, through the facilitation of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, signed a US$25 million agreement with ABSA Bank of South Africa for tobacco input facility for the 2005/6 season.

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