This comes as Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka told stakeholders at the opening ceremony of the 2021 tobacco marketing season yesterday in the capital that the government would increase funding of both large and small scale tobacco farmers to increase output.
Masuka said agriculture remained one of the key sectors in the quest to achieve Vision 2030 of transforming the country into an upper middle-class economy.
“As part of agriculture transformation, my ministry envisions transforming the 18 000 A2 farmers to become agricultural entrepreneurs and their farms becoming enviable businesses by 2025.
“Furthermore, we envisage transforming the 360 000 A1 farmers to become viable and formal small to medium enterprises by 2025, focusing on up-skilling their activities,” the minister said.
Last year, the government launched the Agriculture and Food System Transformation Strategy (AFSTS) aimed at accelerating agriculture production, productivity and profitability growth in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
“For the tobacco sector, my ministry coordinated the development of a Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Strategy which focuses on eliminating the challenges facing the sector,” Masuka added.
He said the strategy enables the intensification of tobacco production by enhancing transparency and fair tobacco marketing, reform, restructuring and rebuilding of existing institutions in order to optimise tobacco value chain financing.
“We are working on modalities to increase support to independent smallholder tobacco farmers to ensure that the dual tobacco marketing system is kept afloat. The contract system has contributed immensely to the tobacco sector, but the auction has to be kept alive. It has to be supported,” Masuka added.
Apart from engagements with the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), Masuka said the government has revived the Agricultural Finance Corporation and would now trade as the Land Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe to support the overall transformation process for accelerated development of the country.
Speaking on the side-lines of the official opening, outgoing TIMB chief executive Andrew Matibiri said the depreciating figure of tobacco being handled through the auction system was a cause for concern in the sector.
“The auction system is very critical for the industry. We have to ensure that it continues because that is where we find the value of our tobacco, in other words that’s where we derive minimum prices to use for the contract sales so it has to be supported,” he said.
Matibiri said TIMB was also rolling out the Tobacco Input Credit Scheme (TICS) to support farmers with inputs, working capital and technical expertise.
TIMB chairperson Peter Devenish said the other challenge facing the industry is that some growers continue to cut down indigenous trees for firewood for curing tobacco.
“The cutting down of indigenous trees is attracting a lot of negative attention from global cigarette manufactures with some threatening to boycott our crop.
“I encourage all growers to establish woodlots, preferably planting the fast-growing tree species. The Board is aware that growers have viability challenges due to high costs of production and acknowledge that a lot still needs to be done to reduce the cost of production,” Devenish said.