HomeBusinessReprieve for burley tobacco farmers as TIMB finds buyer

Reprieve for burley tobacco farmers as TIMB finds buyer

CHIDZIVA Tobacco Processors (CTP) will in April start buying locally produced burley tobacco, reversing the misfortunes of farmers who grew the flavour in the past two seasons.

BY JENNIFER DUBE

Many farmers who grew the flavour were in 2011 turned away from the sales floors following the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB)’s failure to secure a buyer for the crop, while only one buyer purchased the crop from one out of four centres last year.

TIMB chief executive, Andrew Matibiri last week said CTP would this season buy all the burley tobacco produced across the country.

“Prior to this year, all local burley was for local cigarette production but since the extremely low production [60 tonnes] realised last year a contractor, Chidziva Tobacco Processors, has stepped in with efforts to increase production and export all [the] excess,” Matibiri said.

Most farmers abandoned the crop last season fearing the misfortunes of 2011. Matibiri said TIMB this year expected 350 tonnes of the tobacco flavour.

In January, TIMB said it expected burley tobacco hectarage to increase from 16,7 hectares last season to 144,2 hectares this season.

Farmers produced millions of tonnes of the tobacco flavour in the past, with 16 million tonnes produced in 1998.

Burley tobacco is a type of tobacco developed and bred to be cured by hanging in a shed.

As the leaf dries out naturally, the green chlorophyll in the leaf degenerates and exposes the dark chocolate-brown xanthophylls (yellow pigments of leaves) which gives the tobacco its smoking characteristics.

This is different from Virginia or flue-cured tobacco, which most Zimbabwean tobacco farmers are currently producing.

Virginia tobacco is cured using heat that is introduced into a barn through flue-pipes to keep smoke from coming into direct contact with the tobacco. As the leaf dries out, the green chlorophyll degenerates, leaving bright yellow or orange xanthyphylls exposed, giving Virginia tobacco its main characteristic.

Virginia tobacco is the ingredient in most cigarettes while burley tobacco is used for producing blended  cigarettes, which in Zimbabwe are found in the “red” packs, for example  Madison and Savanna Storm.
Burley grows on heavy red soils which are unsuitable for Virginia tobacco, uses less labour, is easier to grade and does not require a heat source.

Matibiri said the two types of tobacco are equally financially rewarding if grown to their highest potential.

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