Government begs farmers not to abandon tobacco farming

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MARONDERA: Fearful that farmers may abandon tobacco growing in the next season due to low prices, government is now engaging and pleading with farmers to continue growing the crop as it remains one of the country’s key sources of revenue.
One such plea was made this week at a meeting attended by hundreds of small-scale farmers at Windrush Chiseve, a farm in Marondera.
During the meeting, the majority of frustrated farmers who planted the golden leaf last season, said they had abandoned tobacco as they had failed to recoup costs from sales due to low prices at auction floors.
However, officials from the Department of Agricultural Research and Extension Service, Tobacco Research Board and the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union pleaded with the farmers not to abandon the precious crop.
The state departments said tobacco remained one of the key sectors helping to boost the country’s ailing economy.
An estimated 97,000 farmers registered to grow the crop last season amid strong concerns that a sizeable number of them might pull out in the next season.
Goodson Khudu, an official with Tobacco Research Board, was at pains to convince the farmers how important tobacco was to the country’s ailing economy.
“Tobacco is helping in resuscitating the country’s economy and as farmers you should not lose hope in continuing to grow the crop. 
“Instead, you should opt for float bed sowing, which has several advantages over tobacco seedling production alternatives as they produce superior seedlings that are drought resistant,” Khudu told the farmers.
He urged the farmers to use more fertiliser, water and chemicals in order to yield a quality crop.
The farmers, however, felt that the move would be untenable due to what they believed were underhand dealings at the auction floors resulting in them getting low prices.
The last tobacco marketing season was characterised by demonstrations as farmers angrily rejected the low prices offered at the time, which at one point fell to 50c per kg.Advertisement