Fidelis Munyoro Chief Reporter
The tobacco farming season looks promising for contracted farmers, especially those with access to irrigation, despite erratic rains and prolonged dry spells.
Farmers contracted to Ethical Leaf Tobacco (ELT) who spoke to The Herald, paid tribute to the company for assisting with inputs and other support which would ensure that they record decent yields.
Despite the risk of drought, ELT, one of the leading tobacco firms in the country, has taken the bold step of investing in the new tobacco crop, saying without inputs there is no crop potential.
ELT’s profile of clients includes Manicaland State University of Applied Science (MSUAS) which has 40 hectares of land under irrigated tobacco and is expecting to start reaping its crop.
MSUAS farm manager Mr Shelton Haukozvi said: “I think ELT support was handy considering the hyper-inflationary economic situation obtaining in the country. It was difficult to finance our operations.”
He said harvesting of the crop is expected at the end of the month, despite having grappled with erratic supply of electricity.
Rusape farmer Mr Revai Chinene, who planted 55 000 tobacco plants, said the only challenge was the dry spell.
“The inputs under the current economic hardship and spiralling prices are beyond our reach,” he said.
“We are grateful for contract farming which came to our rescue to be able to grow tobacco this season.”
Another tobacco farmer in Mt Darwin, Mr Leavy Bako, said he managed to plant 1,5 hectares of the crop after he joined ELT contract farming.
In an interview, ELT operations manager Mr Taurai Jemedze, said the company was not deterred by the risk of drought and successfully managed to distribute inputs to farmers.
“We also operate throughout all the major tobacco producing areas in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Manicaland,” he said.
“This geographic spread is a key part of our drought mitigation strategy. Some of our growers have invested in irrigation infrastructure, a long-term solution for drought risk.”
Most crops countrywide are showing signs of stress due to lack of rains and some crops, maize in particular, is wilting more rapidly.