Farmers abandon tobacco over falling prices

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TOBACCO production in 2015/2016 season is expected to plunge over 30 percent as thousands of re-settled farmers have abandoned the crop due to poor prices and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
The ‘gold leaf’ is one of the country’s main sources of revenue, generating about $500 million last season when production declined to 417,500 kgs from 585,200 kgs the previous year.
However, data from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) shows that 53,000 farmers registered to grow the crop this season, compared to 70,000 farmers last year.
“The reasons for the low uptake are not yet fully established but indications are that a number of farmers especially in Mashonaland provinces are moving away from tobacco after harvesting a poor crop during the previous season,” the (TIMB) chief executive, Andrew Matibiri said in a statement last week.
The Tobacco Research Board (TRB) was even more pessimistic saying the seed purchased by growers would not translate to the hectares grown as some farmers were likely change their minds.
“What we know is that not all seeds bought translate to a crop because some growers will change their minds, so we can look at 65 to 80 percent of that amount being planted.
“Certainly from what we have, activity in the 2015 to 2016 season is lower,” said TRB general manager, Dahlia Garwe.
Small-scale farmers have, in the recent years, been the major growers of the gold leaf after the white commercial farmers were removed during the controversial land reform programme.
But many of the new farmers say they have been forced to abandon the crop due to poor prices last season. Some of the farmers were left in debt after failing to get any profits from their sales.
In August, officials from the ministry of agriculture, TRB and TIMB engaged small-scale farmers in Marondera, pleading with them not to abandon the crop as it remained the country’s main foreign currency earner.Advertisement