Sunday, October 21, 2018

Tobacco Farmers Urged to Diversify
22 OCT, 2018 - 00:10
Elita Chikwati
Senior Agriculture Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

The tobacco sector is encouraging farmers to diversify into other high value export crops such as chia, an oil seed, to boost their income.

Tobacco is one of the major foreign currency earners in Zimbabwe and is under threat from a proposed global ban.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board corporate communications manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo said the promotion of chia production among tobacco farmers was meant to ensure the growers have an all year round source of income.

He said globally, some countries were trying to shift away from tobacco consumption to water pipe tobacco as well as e-cigarettes threatening the farmers’ major source of income.

“We are considering a number of crops including high value cigars, well sought after chia as well as horticulture for export on other alternatives to tobacco production so as to ensure that farmers continue to generate foreign currency. These crops complement tobacco farming.

“We are having farmer training on chia production targeting all tobacco farmers and our aim is to promote the farmer to engage in horticultural production for exports and also to maximise their return from agriculture,” he said.

He said chia is the edible seed of a flowering plant in the mint family. Chia seeds are oval and gray with black and white spots. They have a diameter around one millimetre.

“The seeds are used in creams and beverages and have export value. Chia seeds contain omega three fats.

“Chia is a non-traditional crop, it does adapt well to the Zimbabwean geography climate and good yields are obtainable. The crop also produces oil that can be used in salads. Chia plant requires 550mm of water in its life,” he said.

He said conservation farming is practised in chia production hence there was no need for fertilisers.

“It is also resistant to diseases and pests that affect many other crops hence there is no need for chemical use. Chia is harvested within 120 days and produces 3-4 tonnes per hectare.

“Chia is cheaper and less labour intensive during production. Research has shown that the crop is good for cancer, blood pressure and cholesterol,” he said.

Mr Moyo said chia was an in ideal crop for diversification since the optimum time for growing it was between January-April which normally is during the tobacco marketing season.

“Chia has good potential as a foreign currency earner as its oil and seeds are in demand outside the country. TIMB has had all its field and technical officers trained in chia production so that they can impart skills and knowledge on chia production to tobacco farmers,” he said.

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