Climate change shortens tobacco season

THE tobacco sector will experience a shorter season as a result of climate change which has brought the rains late, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has said.

BY TARISAI MANDIZHA

TIMB chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri said according to the Meteorological Services Department, the tobacco sector would experience a shorter season, but said the country would maintain its spot as one of the major producers of the golden leaf.

“The tobacco industry has not been spared by challenges facing the country, particularly climate change which has brought the rains late and according to the Meteorological Department, we will experience a shorter season,” Matibiri said.

“This is more or less the environment we experienced last season and we are adjusting and adapting through investing in irrigation infrastructure.

Despite these challenges, Zimbabwe remains a major producer of flue-cured tobacco in the world and is the third biggest exporter in the world.”

In 2015, Zimbabwe produced 198,95 million kg of tobacco worth $584 million. Matibiri said to date 69 518 tobacco farmers had registered.
He said a number of farmers had indicated they would register next year when the stop order facility will be in place.

Matibiri said registration was ongoing and more farmers would register.

“We are still to carry out crop assessments in conjunction with Tobacco Research Board and Agritex. It is still too early to quantify, but we will have a clearer picture early January. According to the Plant Pests and Diseases Act (Chapter 19:08), the last day for the destruction of seedbeds is December 31,” he said.

In his 2016 National Budget presentation, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said agriculture was expected to recover by 1,8%, though adequate planning on mitigating the impact of the El Nino weather would be essential.

Chinamasa said the 2015/16 weather forecast predicted a challenging agricultural season, with erratic distribution of rains and this would have negative implications on the outcome of the forthcoming agricultural season.

“Our interventions in agriculture for the coming season take account of Metrological Services weather forecasts for the 2015/2016 farming season of normal to below normal rains, with the likelihood of a late start to the season, coupled with a short rainfall season over December to February/March 2016.

“Indications are that different regions will fare differently, and it will be necessary that for planning purposes farmers monitor Meteorological Services Department weather updates, as well as Extension Services Department advisory warnings on planting, and crop maturing varieties, including staggering of planting to spread risks,” Chinamasa said.

He, however, said this should guide farming operations, including choice of short season crop varieties, planting timings, application of fertilisers and pest control, all critical for effective crop yield benefits from the rainfall received within the forecast short summer cropping season.

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