Harare-American owned Mashonaland Tobacco Company (MTC) invested at least $26,9 million into contract farming this cropping season, supporting over 10 000 farmers who are growing the crop, an official has said.
MTC managing director Kenneth Langley told New Ziana the company’s investment in contract growing of tobacco was sharply increasing over the years.
“In terms of direct investment into tobacco contract farming for 2015/16 cropping season, MTC injected $25,5 million,” he said.
Langley said in addition, MTC also invested in sustainability programs involving growing of tobacco, including industry initiatives such as establishment of woodlots for curing purposes.
“At least $1,4 million was put towards sustainability issues, bringing the total investment to $26,9 million,” he said. He said the company had contracted at least 10 759 growers, 98 percent of who were small holder farmers.
“The remaining 2 percent of our contract farmers are medium and large scale farmers,” he said.
Mr Langley said while the El Niño induced weather pattern being experienced in the country was of great concern, it did not impact on the MTC contract farming program.
“We are educating farmers in terms of planting tobacco in dry season or anticipating low rainfall to minimize the effects of drought on tobacco,” he said.
MTC is the largest single contractor of small holder tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe. The company, which started contracting tobacco farmers in 2004, has been operating as a leaf merchant in Zimbabwe since 1936 and supplies packed tobacco to global markets.
Tobacco has become Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earner, with close to 92 000 farmers growing the crop during 2014/15 season, a number significantly higher than 52 000 farmers three years ago.
Last year the country produced 198, 7 million kg of tobacco, down from 216, 1 million kg in 2014 due to a poor rainfall season. Over the years, many farmers have abandoned traditional crops like maize and cotton in preference for tobacco due to its orderly marketing and competitive prices.