One of Zimbabwe’s largest tobacco farmers, Graeme Chadwick was recently fined US$9 300 by the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DRSS) under the Lands Ministry for planting the golden leaf before stipulated dates.
The Plant Pests and Diseases Tobacco regulations Statutory Instrument 711 of 1979 restricts tobacco seeds from being sown before the first of June every year whilst tobacco seedlings may not be planted out in the field before September 1 every year.
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Chadwick was issued a US$1 600 ticket for planting 16 hectares of tobacco before September 1 and also US$7 700 for early tobacco nursery planting of 77 beds.
The ticket was issued to Landos Farm located in Headlands which is rented by the top tobacco commercial white farmer.
DRSS’s plant health inspector, Lovemore Mwavurudza told NewZimbabwe.com that Chadwick was fined after violating tobacco planting regulations. Said Mwavurudza:
We have discovered that Landos Farm conducted early planting which is not in line with tobacco regulation which states that every farmer must start to transplant from September 1. Today, it is 20 August and it is too early to start painting. It means that they planted their seedbeds very early as well before 1 June.
Physiologically, if we plant on June 1 by 20 August seeds will not be ready for transplanting. So in short they conducted early planting before 1 June.
Chadwick’s farm manager, Godfrey Chirimo said that due to Covid-19 regulations the farm failed to attract sufficient manpower hence planting before September 1.
We have very low manpower this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We can not go too far away places like Guruve, Mhondoro, and Mhangura where we used to outsource for manpower.
We planted a little bit early so that our irrigated crop will flourish.
Tobacco Research Board (TRB) sales agronomist, Itai Mazhangara warned commercial farmers against flouting Tobacco regulations saying this might result in the outbreak of diseases which in turn might cause the suspension of the crop for some time.