MTC invests over $26 million in contract tobacco farming

TOBACCOHarare-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.

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