Top Tobacco Farmer Fined US$9 000 For Planting Before September 1

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By Felix Matasva

MUTARE: One of Zimbabwe’s largest tobacco farmers, Graeme Chadwick was recently fined US$9 300 by the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DRSS)  for planting the golden leaf before stipulated dates.

DRSS operates under the auspices of the Lands Ministry.

The Plant Pests and Diseases Tobacco regulations Statutory Instrument 711 of 1979 restricts tobacco seeds from being sown before the first of June every year whilst tobacco seedlings may not be planted out in the field before September 1 every year.

Chadwick was issued a US$1 600 ticket for planting 16 hectares of tobacco before September 1 and also  US$7 700 for early tobacco nursery planting of 77 beds.

The ticket was issued to Landos Farm which is rented by the top tobacco commercial white farmer.

Landos Farm is located in Headlands just a few km away from the popular Halfway House along Mutare-Harare highway.

DRSS’s plant health inspector, Lovemore Mwavurudza told that Chadwick was fined after running afoul with tobacco planting regulations.

“We have discovered that Landos Farm conducted early planting which is not in line with tobacco regulation which states that every farmer must start to transplant from September 1. Today, it is 20 August and it is too early to start painting. It means that they planted their seedbeds very early as well before 1 June.

“Physiologically, if we plant on June 1 by 20 August seeds will not be ready for transplanting. So in short they conducted early planting before 1 June,” said Mwavurudza.

However, Chadwick’s farm manager, Godfrey Chirimo said that due to Covid-19 regulations the farm failed to attract sufficient manpower hence planting before September 1.

“We have very low manpower this season due to Covid-19 pandemic. We can not go too faraway places like Guruve, Mhondoro, and Mhangura where we used to outsource for manpower.

“We planted a little bit early so that our irrigated crop will flourish,” said Chirimo.

Tobacco Research Board (TRB) sales agronomist, Itai Mazhangara warned commercial farmers against flouting Tobacco regulations saying this will have a ripple effect on the country’s golden leaf production in the long run.

“Farmers must observe these dates in order to avoid disease outbreaks like Potato Virus Y (PVY) which has no cure.

“We do not want a repeat of the 1970s when the golden leaf production was suspended due to outbreak of diseases,” said Mazhangara.

Makoni District has got the highest number of tobacco commercial farmers in the Southern African nation.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) public affairs officer, Chelesani Moyo said they are working closely with AGRITEX to raise awareness on the importance of complying with tobacco planting stipulated dates.

“TIMB has no control over farmers who fail to observe dates, but we support the Department of Research and Specialist Services in ensuring the offenders are brought to book

“Early planting increases the cost of production that is more money needed to go towards irrigation and treating diseases, ” said Moyo indicating that production costs may be minimised by observing tobacco planting regulations.

Zimbabwe Farmer’s Union (ZFU) Manicaland provincial manager, Dennis Chisevure said farmers with queries regarding tobacco stipulated dates must seek redress from relevant authorities.

“If farmers have any issues to be addressed, they must engage relevant authorities before doing anything which results in them incurring a lot of costs. Otherwise, they must religiously observe stipulated planting dates,” said Chisevure.