Zimbabwe tobacco harvesting begins

Ominous Tobacco Field at dusk. Notice two iny windmills visible on the horizon

IRRIGATED tobacco growers — who planted their crop early September — have started reaping and curing the golden leaf.

Manicaland planted a combined 20 000 hectares of irrigated and dryland crop.

Agritex tobacco specialist, Mr Douglas Nzarayebani irrigated crop is now ripe in Makoni, Mutasa and Mutare districts, while some of the farmers with the dry-land crop are still transplanting.

“In most irrigated areas, tobacco reaping has started. Makoni is the hub of tobacco production in Manicaland and most of the irrigation farmers in Headlands, Rusape and Nyazura have started harvesting. Some growers in Mutasa and Mutare have also started reaping,” said Mr Nzarayebani.

Tobacco Farmers’ Union Trust president, Mr Victor Mariranyika said growers who planted their crop on September 1 started reaping during the first week of December.

“The irrigated crop that was planted around September 1 is being harvested in commercial farms with irrigation competent facilities. The commencement of reaping coincided with the advent of the resurgent rains — and the heavy rains are associated with thunderstorms and hailstorms that disrupt the smooth flow of tobacco reaping. In some instances hailstorms are destroying the crop,” said Mr Mariranyika.

“Sometimes the fields are flooded. Thunder and lightning also make it difficult for workers to reap the mature crop. We hope the tobacco crop is insured against these natural occurrences. There is also leaching of fertilisers and nutrients which may end up compromising the quality of the crop and growers may need to re-fertilise the crop,” said Mr Mariranyika. Mr Denford Mutwiwa of Mutwiwa Farm in Headlands said he started harvesting his crop during the first week of December.

He has 110 hectares under irrigation.

Experts say growers whose crop has not yet ripened should continue with weeding, applying fertilisers and pest control chemicals to get the best crop possible.

Those in areas with low rainfall should consider potholing, tie-ridging, scouting for aphids and crop diseases

Manicaland is the fourth largest tobacco producer in the country after Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland Central.

Only Makoni and Mutare used to grow the crop, but it is now being grown across the whole province.

But while production has improved, this has resulted in unprecedented tree cutting as farmers look for cheaper alternative source of energy to cure it.

On the other hand, veld fires destroyed 30 850 hectares of woodlands, grasslands and plantations this fire season.

Substantial amounts of indigenous trees like mutondo, mupfuti, musasa and muunze trees, which have become endangered species, are preferred wood-fuel because they are cheap and readily available in the communities.

This season, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) made a landmark decision mandating tobacco contractors to support tobacco growers in order to safeguard the integrity of the contract system.

The minimum packages that contractors should give the farmers include seed, fertilisers, chemicals, tillage, harvesting, curing and marketing resources. – Manica Post