By Alois Vinga
THE Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) has confirmed that preparations for the 2023/2024 season have reached a crescendo with seedbed sown so far having increased by 15, 5% compared to the last season.
In an update Friday, TIMB revealed that a lot of progress has been made so far in a development, which will further see an increase in tobacco output.
“Preparations for the 2023/24 tobacco season are progressing well. Currently, a total of 98 217 hectares of seed bed area has been sown this is in comparison to 84 985 hectares sown during the same period last year. The 1st of September marked the earliest date for planting irrigated tobacco.
“Currently, growers are discing and preparing ridges for the transplanting of hardened seedlings,” the golden leaf’s industry regulator said.
TIMB has also added shisha tobacco, another cash crop, to the stable of tobaccos after the first batch of the crop being grown during the 2022/23 season.
For the 2023/24 season, 4,390 grams of shisha tobacco seed covering 549 hectares has been disbursed to growers and they are working on seedbeds on the back of the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan which seeks to increase tobacco value addition and beneficiation where shisha tobacco will be processed locally.
The regulator said 51,695 growers have registered for the 2023/24 season on the back of a call encouraging registered growers to renew their grower numbers and the first-time growers to apply at the TIMB Regional offices in Marondera, Mutare, Rusape, Mvurwi, Bindura, Chinhoyi and Karoi.
“We have new contractors coming on board for the 2023/24 season. Six contractors have been licensed to increase the number of tobacco financiers for this season.
“TIMB has put in place some key strategies to tackle the issues of mis-invoicing and transfer pricing that have been negatively impacting the tobacco industry. Among the strategies is the Compliance Administrative Framework that was implemented in 2021 and the setting up of a new Compliance Administration Department,” the industry regulator said.
The former framework is there to ensure all contracting companies fund farmers with inputs that are within the approved cost ranges as guided by the prevailing input costs as set by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
“Before contracting commences, all interested companies submit their commitment documents which show their capacity to contract for the season which includes proof of funding, unit cost of inputs to be given to farmers and the interest component to be charged.
“Such commitment documents are then vetted by our Compliance and Licensing Committee that will inspect all such and if any is found in violation of the Board’s compliance standards such will be rejected and no approval for contracting farmers will be given,” added TIMB.