Tobacco farmers improvise amid coal shortages

Minister Walter Chidhakwa

Minister Walter Chidhakwa

Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
TOBACCO growers have been forced to improvise in their curing processes as the country faces a shortage of coal because of flooded coal mines in Hwange, an official has said.

Some farmers have resorted to using firewood, which has been condemned by environmentalists as it causes deforestation.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Cde Walter Chidhakwa said coal production in Hwange had been affected after mines were recently flooded by incessant rains.

He said Makomo Resources and Hwange Colliery Company, despite their earlier undertaking to improve production, had failed to do so because of flooded mines.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made also raised the same concern when he officially opened the 2017 tobacco selling season at Boka Tobacco Auction floors in Harare yesterday.

“The heavy rains have affected small scale miners, their mines are flooded. Coal production has also been affected. Coal to cure tobacco is not available.

Makomo Resources and Hwange Colliery Company have been forced to reduce coal production because of flooded mines,” he said. Minister Chidhakwa said they were hopeful that tobacco growers would have an improved supply of coal in the coming week as rains subside.

“We are coming to the end of the rainy season and the situation should improve for the better. Production is expected to increase,” he said.

Last year, the country’s tobacco sales surpassed the 160 million kilogrammes target set by the industry’s regulator, with 167 million kilogrammes having been sold by day 69 of the tobacco marketing season.

In 2015, the sector produced 198,95 million kgs of tobacco earning the country $584 million.

In 2015, the tobacco sales closed on July 15, but last year the auction floors opened late and expectations are that sales will continue until the end of July.

— @pchitumba1.

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