EDITOR — It is disheartening to note farmers registering to grow tobacco have been declining over the years. Most tobacco growers complained that they were not pleased with the price that tobacco was marked at, at the auction floors which is said to be lower than that of previous years.
On the other hand, tobacco buyers were blaming the farmers that this year tobacco’s quality was poor when compared to previous years.
Previous reports also indicated that tobacco farmers were calling for decentralisation of auction floors in their provinces as transporting tobacco from different areas across the nation to Harare tobacco auction floors was a big challenge to them, which took most of their proceeds.
In addition, it is also noted that those farmers also complained of expensive accommodation that was charged to them while they will be waiting for their produce to go through the auction floors.
It is imperative to note that agriculture is the backbone of our economy and all efforts must be done to make the small holder farmer reap maximum profit from their produces. Following that, tobacco farmers who are facing such challenges and decided not to grow tobacco for the next coming agricultural season should therefore be encouraged to find other alternative crops to grow rather than living their farms idle.
There are a number of crops that can be grown instead of tobacco.
These farmers can either engage themselves in maize farming or small grains depending on the suitability of the soil. Crops like maize and small grains will actually help in boosting the food security of the country. Maize is the most important grain crop in Zimbabwe, being both a major feed grown and a staple food for the majority of the population.
Apart from selling their maize as raw grain, maize can be processed and sold as maize-meal or alternatively sold into a variety of other by products such as flour, oil, maputi and samp. Maize grit can also be sold as snacks or stock feed.
The reduction in the number of tobacco farmers may mean a rise in the country’s food security for the impending farming season.
All farmers should have started their preparations now as lack of proper planning will affect the production output of crops. By this time serious farmers should have purchased farm inputs such as seeds and fertilisers.
However, on the other hand, the government through ministry of Agriculture should do awareness programmes addressing all tobacco farmers on the best methods they can use when growing their tobacco, best fertilisers to use that suit well with climate and the type of soil in that area.
This could assist in improving the quality of tobacco being produced by these farmers. PZ.