GOVERNMENT is failing to fund the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) despite it being a key institution necessary to turn around the fortunes of the economy.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
TRB general manager Dahlia Garwe yesterday told the Christopher Chitindi-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, which was on tour, that 75% of the capital used to run the research institute was from their own commercial activities, mostly from seed producing at Kutsaga.
“As a parastatal, we are supposed to get funding from the government, but we have not received anything and TRB has been self-supporting,” Garwe said.
“Government collects a 0,078% tobacco levy and it is shared by the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board and TRB, as well as other interested bodies, which contributes to about 30% to 35% of our revenue, while the 65% to 75% shortfall is borne by ourselves.”
Despite lack of government support, TRB had managed to produce tobacco seed varieties for the local and export market, and Kutsaga was now a very reputable seed research institute internationally.
“We export seed for burley tobacco which is more than one and a half tonnes per annum, and for flue-cured varieties we export 100 kilogrammes. This is a lot of seed because for a hectare of tobacco one needs only five grams of seed and so when one talks of a tonne it is a lot of seed.
“We have five years’ worth of seed for tobacco varieties and historical figures show that Zimbabwe needs 750 kilogrammes of tobacco seed per year. The international market needs about one tonne of tobacco seed from TRB,” Garwe said.
The TRB also currently has grown 1 200 hectares worth of seedlings that have already been booked by farmers for planting in September. Garwe said the seedlings are sold for $398 per hectare and are nurtured from June in order to be planted in September.
TRB management said they were facing challenges of raw materials which had to be ordered from outside Zimbabwe, and at times it took six months for them to be delivered.
“Some of the problems we face are to do with recapitalising laboratories because we need to modernise the equipment there. It is equipment that has been used since the 1950s and when it breaks down, it is difficult to get replacements because developed countries are now using modern equipment.”
Garwe said other challenges included land, as well as problems of illegal settlers, some of who had invaded TRB space and were vandalising fences and materials like plastics used for growing of tobacco seeds.