GOVT TO ASSIST TOBACCO FARMERS
Government is working hard to ensure tobacco growers meet the 2020 Global Tobacco Cigarette Companies guidelines on producing the crop in a sustainable way.
The Global Tobacco Cigarette Companies guidelines state that as from 2020, international buyers would no longer be accepting tobacco that has not been produced in a sustainable manner, including that which is cured using coal.
In an interview last week, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said it was important for the tobacco industry to adopt afforestation programmes and remain competitive and relevant to the global cigarette industry.
“Farmers have been levied and a fund created for afforestation,” he said.
“There is a programme underway where gum trees are being planted throughout the country.
“We have to increase the pace and encourage farmers to establish gum plantations to have a source of fuel on their farms for curing come 2020. We are running out of time and we need to move with speed.
“There is really a lot of work which has to be done.”
Minister Shiri said Kutsaga Research Station was also doing a great job by researching on energy-saving barns.
“They are also researching on the possibility of using solar as energy to cure tobacco,” he said.
“Kutsaga Research Station has made strides, but still has to do a few more things before bringing that technology on line.”
In January of 2015, Government introduced an afforestation levy, levied on all tobacco farmers at a rate of 1,5 percent in the first year and 0,75 percent in subsequent years.
To date, at least $19 million has been raised. The money levied from growers should enable growers to develop their farms in terms of woodlots to cure their tobacco.
In the face of the call to produce tobacco in a sustainable manner, tobacco merchants through the Sustainable Afforestation Association are also implementing reforestation programmes with their contracted farmers and have to date planted 14 000 hectares of wood energy to cure tobacco.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has also mobilised $2 million for planting of trees for curing tobacco, with a target of establishing 2 000 hectares of woodlots in the four major tobacco-growing provinces.
Other efforts in line with meeting the 2016 Global Tobacco Cigarette Companies guidelines include the funding of small-scale farmers to construct fuel-efficient barns that use 50 percent less firewood.