Tobacco under threat

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

Unsustainable and harmful practices by tobacco farmers threaten the golden leaf with researchers and government sounding alarm bells that this has got to stop forthwith.

Of concern is the wanton violation of the Plant, Pests and Residues Act, and rapid deforestation.

Tobacco Research Board (TRB) General Manager Dr Daliah Garwe and TRB plant health expert Dr Cleopas Chinheya both warned of the dire consequences to tobacco farming such as aphid borne diseases are an imminent threat to the continued sustainable farming of the golden leaf.

The fine for non-adherence to set legislation on stalk destruction by the 15th of May is not punitive enough at $20 per hectare while there is no enforcement for those who do not reforest hence the continued negative attitude, adds Mr Andrew Mills from Sustainable Afforestation Association and Mr Agripa Bganya, Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco Director.

Government is not happy on the continued indiscipline by farmers who threaten the sector which raked in $737 million from the 250 million kilogrammes sold in the last season and is weighing options of pushing for stiffer penalties.

Tobacco farmers account for 15 percent of the 330 000 hectares of indigenous forests lost annually while banned chemicals have been detected in some of the tobacco exported from Zimbabwe threatening the sector.