Preparations for the 2021 tobacco production season have began, with irrigated farmers expected to have started sowing seedbeds yesterday.
Most irrigated tobacco farmers are contracted growers and get their inputs timely.
However, most smallholder farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture are expected to start sowing in July and August.
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) vice president Mr Edward Dune yesterday confirmed that plans for the 2021 tobacco season were underway and highlighted that most farmers doing irrigated crop had secured their inputs.
“Farmers with irrigation are highly organised and well prepared for the next season.
“Normally, farmers with irrigation are contracted and they get inputs timely even though they may be expensive.
“The challenge is with some smallholder farmers who rely on self-funding. These can be affected by the current exchange rate of 1:25. Farmers have limited choice in terms of what else to do.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr George Seremwe said if the exchange rate was not revised, some farmers might end up switching to other viable crops such as cereals.
“Contract growers do not have problems because they get inputs. Smallholder farmers are getting 50 percent of their money in foreign currency while the remaining 50 percent is in local currency using the 1:25 rate.
“The rate has taken long and this has affected viability.
“All inputs are being sold in foreign currency. Why is it that farmers are only allowed 50 percent of their money in foreign currency?
“The situation could improve if the farmers get 80 percent of the money in foreign currency,” he said.
He said some of the members were contemplating withholding their crop until the situation improves.
“We are also going to have a stakeholders consultative meeting to see how we can come up with a solution to the challenge. If the rate remains at 1:25 we cease too function.
Farmers will soon switch to other crops and this makes business sense.
All tobacco seeds may not be sown before the 1st of June every year and all tobacco seedlings may not be planted out in the field before the September 1 every year,” he said.
Tobacco is ranked as one of the most economically important non-food crops in Zimbabwe, earning millions of dollars annually.
The tobacco crop is important to the country as a foreign currency earner, contributing to improved livelihoods and employing a large number of poor rural population.
Earnings from tobacco have improved the livelihoods of both smallholder, medium and large-scale farmers and support the tobacco processing industry.