Tobacco farming in Rushinga has surged to 517 hectares in the 2018-19 season from a previous hectarage of 218, a positive response to government calls to embrace dry land farming.
Government records as at December 2019, show that 168 735 farmers had registered to grow the gold leaf countrywide, an increase of almost 50 percent when compared to the 113 530 farmers who registered last season.
In light of this, calls have also heightened for farmers to deal with reputable tobacco buyers to avoid being swindled of their hard earned proceeds by unscrupulous dealers.
When the pressures of queuing at the tobacco auction floors, impatience and anxiety gets grip on farmers, most succumb to illegal dealers’ shoddy pricing and once they receive their dues, some fail to plan for the coming season through lavish spending.
Cognisant of this and an increase in new tobacco farmers by over 50 percent this year, agriculture experts descended on Nyanhewe in Rushinga district to enlighten farmers on ideal farmer conduct whilst encouraging them on selling to reputable buyers.
“Marketing continues to be a challenge to our farmers. Some sell to illegal roadside dealers and end up being fleeced off, hence we need to conscientise each other on what to do,” said Rushing District Crop and Livestock Officer Luke Mupambwa.
“Let us make sure we are registered and have realistic estimates so that you do not spend days at the auction floors,” said Tobacco Sales Floor Operations Manager Kennedy Zimunya.
The increase in the number of tobacco growers come with increased tree cutting for tobacco curing a challenge local leaders and the forestry commission seek to conquer.
“Let’s grow tobacco and leave the environment safe. It is not an ideal situation to stop the growing of tobacco therefore let’s just ensure that those who do not plant trees are prohibited from growing tobacco,” said Rushinga legislator Hon Tendai Nyabani.
“The source of energy to cure tobacco should be one of the inputs. We are licensing farmers to prevent wanton distraction of trees,” said Rushinga district Forestry Extension Officer Emmanuel Shava.
The increase in tobacco growing in Rushinga is an economic boost to the drought prone region and expectations are that farmers will embrace other forms of energy such as biogas and coal to save trees.
The gold leaf is the country’s second forex earning export behind gold and the current yield is expected to boost reserves despite the El-Nino-induced drought.