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Small Scale Tobacco Farmers Hamstrung by Lack of Inputs

SMALL-scale tobacco farmers are struggling to get inputs, a situation threatening to reduce by a fifth the projected output of 65 000 kg next season.

Focus for inputs have largely been on maize farmers to the neglect of the small-scale tobacco farmers who do not have contracts with merchants.
Contractors preferred large scale farmers where they are guaranteed of returns.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president Kevin Cooke said small- scale farmers could not access inputs, especially fertiliser.
“Inputs are still difficult to get at the Grain Marketing Board depots and we are very concerned that this would affect the season,” said Cooke. “About half of the small-
scale farmers are yet to get inputs but commercial planting is going on well and it is up compared to last season.”
Small-scale farmers account for up to 40% of tobacco produced in the country.
Cooke said farmers could not get compound fertilisers and they were now awaiting the intervention of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
TIMB chief executive Andrew Matibiri confirmed that distribution of inputs was still going on at several depots despite that the planting season had already started.
The tobacco board would support farmers to plant 4 000 hectares under the crop this season.
Matibiri said TIMB was focusing on the three Mashonaland provinces, as well as Manicaland. It would distribute fertilisers and chemicals in the provinces.
“We are distributing ammonium nitrate and chemicals to farmers through GMB depots as part of the CBZ scheme and farmers are collecting these from the depots in the four provinces,” said Matibiri.
There were very few takers for financing small-scale tobacco farmers until CBZ came up with a scheme but this also came a bit late as all inputs should have been at the farms by now.
Small scale tobacco farmers do not have the required collateral to borrow from banks to finance the crop and in the last seasons they have been heavily dependent on subsidised inputs.
It has been completely different this season as the perennial provider of subsidised inputs, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has stopped such quasi-fiscal activities.
This has been worsened by the fact that potential sponsors have chosen to support the growing of maize and small grain crops to improve the country’s food security situation.
Tobacco, at its peak production levels, accounted for more than half of total agricultural exports and this translated to 30% of the country’s total exports.
Tobacco production peaked at 260 million kg in 1998, which is almost five times as much as what the industry is now producing 11 years later.
At its peak, the crop earned the country around US$270 million yearly and accounted for 10 percent of the gross domestic product.

 

Leonard Makombe

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