Knowledge of the different types of tobacco
In Zimbabwe, the common types of tobacco are flue cured, burley and oriental tobacco. Flue cured is the most common and its production is mainly done in the high rainfall areas in the north and east of Harare.
In the east of Harare, a thicker slower maturing type is grown whilst in the north the Virginia type of tobacco is grown. The thicker type is mainly used for blended cigarettes. Burley tobacco is grown in the northeast and eastern highlands because the areas have high rainfalls and a prolonged period of high humidity favourable for curing.
It is important that you attend training forums and understand that different regions grow different types of tobacco. Tobacco farming is very challenging and you need to invest your time in acquiring the necessary knowledge because it is knowledge based and the capital outlays are very significant and you can only reap them back if you apply this knowledge appropriately. Areas such as Karoi, Nyazura, Macheke and Marondera are good for tobacco farming.
Tobacco needs good land preparation. While you prepare land, you need to construct seedbeds and plant the tobacco seeds. These need to be nurtured and watered if for example you have an irrigation system. In two months, you may transplant the crop, by then the plant would have grown to a height of 15-20 cm. The plant should then be left to grow for at least two to three months with good irrigation or rainfall and also proper cultivation. Cultivation helps nurture quality thus maximising yield and also reduce the rate at which the golden leaf can be attacked by pests.
Harvesting and curing phases
Harvesting methods differ depending on the type of tobacco. For example burley can be harvested by the whole plant. Leaf by leaf harvesting can be done for the Virginia and oriental tobacco. Monitor and evaluate the progress in the growth of the plant to avoid early harvest. Curing phase is the most critical stage because it influences the quality of the leaf. Depending on your tobacco you may air cure if its burley tobacco, flue cure Virginia tobacco and sun cure oriental tobacco. After curing, the leaf can then be sorted, packed and sent to the tobacco floors. Curing should be done right and contributed to the leaf quality. Since they are different types of tobacco there are different types of methods to use such as air curing for burley, flue curing for Virginia, and sun curing for oriental.
Virginia tobacco can be processed to separate the stem and lamina. To dry up the tobacco, you need the right moisture content.
Practice crop rotation
To maintain the land, crop rotation is key and it helps nurture your land with nutrients. Crops such as maize, soyabean, maize and ground nuts can be rotated on the land after a period of five years.
Plant and equipment
You may need modern machinery such as drip line and overhead irrigation and other basic farming equipment. You need to set up curing and harvesting buildings.
Tobacco farming is different and does not follow the regular marketing channels. The target market is made up of merchants and exporters who usually come to assess the product at the tobacco sales floor. Therefore to attract merchants, your tobacco should be of a high quality. The tobacco is bought at auction floors and contract floors in Harare.
There are other associations and businesses that promote, train and help in the expansion of the business for small and large commercial farmers. These are the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, Tobacco Research Board and Blackfordby. It is important that you network and associate with the above organizations to help increase your knowledge and also stay up to date.
Challenges of Tobacco Farming Business
The tobacco sector is faced with restrictive challenges such as increase in the promotion of cigarette taxes and campaigns against cigarette smoking in some countries.
This affects the amount of tobacco that is exported annually. Relating to Zimbabwe, farmers face challenges during processing due to shortages and electricity cuts. Capital outlays are also a major challenge since farmers may require funds to purchase equipment, buy inputs and pay wages. Capital is quite difficult to assess with no collateral. Most tobacco farmers engage in contract farming. This is whereby the buyers provide the farmers with the inputs for tobacco farming. This reduces the capital required to run a tobacco farming business.
Maximise yield per hectare in order to increase your revenue. For small farmers, a yield of at least 1300 kg per hectare with a price of $3 per kg will make a revenue of at least $3 900 per hectare. Total inputs may be at least $1 500 including costs for firewood, fertilisers, pesticides. For large-scale commercial farmers, the profit margins are high depending on the yield per hectare. — startupbiz.co.zw