Saturday, October 13, 2012

(HERALD ZW) Tobacco farmers go up seven-fold

COMMENT - So much for the estates being handed over to 'cronies of Mugabe'. There were 4,500 'white farmers' (landlords), now there are 49,000 tobacco growers. My only concern is that with the MDC controlled Finance Ministry prioritizing tobacco payments and not paying maize farmers on time, this represents a typical World Bank restructuring of the economy towards producing cash crops instead of staple crops, making the country dependent on food imports.

Tobacco farmers go up seven-fold
Friday, 12 October 2012 00:00
Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has registered 49 000 growers to produce the crop in the 2012/13 summer season. The figure is seven times more than the total number of farmers who had registered to grow the golden leaf during the same period last year. Seven thousand growers had registered during the same period last year. The deadline for registration is October 31.

“Companies are also registering to contract farmers and the number may go up if all applicants are successful,” TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said yesterday.

Dr Matibiri said 18 companies last year contracted farmers to grow the crop. He said the TIMB was still considering applications from six companies.

Meanwhile, farmers have intensified planting of tobacco since the opening of the planting season on September 1.

By end of September, 6 000 hectares of the crop had been planted compared to 5 000ha for the same period last year.

Dr Matibiri, however, bemoaned the absence of funding for the tobacco sector from both the private sector and Government.

Apart from the usual challenge of electricity, which is affecting irrigation, lack of funding has continued to affect tobacco farmers.
He said farmers were complaining of high input costs which he said were eroding farmers’ profits.

Tobacco has become the highest paying crop compared to maize, wheat and cotton.

Although the Grain Marketing Board offers competitive producer prices, the parastatal does not have ready cash to pay farmers like what is done to tobacco growers.

Cotton farmers last season registered huge losses as companies refused to increase prices to match the ones gazetted by Government.

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