Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
Tobacco farmers who flout stipulated rules and regulations that govern the farming of the crop risk losing their farms, Midlands Provincial Crops and Livestock Officer Mrs Madeline Magwenzi has said.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a Midlands Province tobacco awareness campaign launch in Kwekwe yesterday, Mrs Magwenzi said her department had noted with concern that most farmers were not following the proper procedures especially stumping, burning of stock and planting dates, putting other farmers’ crops at risk of contaminating diseases.
She said the recklessness by the farmers was exposing most crops in the province to Potato Virus Y (PVY) which is associated with tobacco stumps that would have been left in the fields after harvesting of the plant.
Mrs Magwenzi said the current spot fine of $1 000 per hectare charged to farmers who would have been caught on the wrong side, was not deterrent enough hence government had resorted to taking farms from the unruly farmers.
“The spot fines are not helping matters as the farmers are continuing with the recklessness.
We are warning farmers to follow the law, because failure to do so, they will lose their farms. If in a case that a farmer leased a piece of land, both the farmer and the land owner are going to lose their farm if caught on the wrong side of the law.
We are trying to promote the correct way of doing things given we have a number of new tobacco farmers across the province,” she said.
“As Midlands Province, we have seen it fit, working hand in hand with stakeholders like Plant Protection that we go around the province conducting awareness campaign on legislation on tobacco stock removal, stumping and burning of stock.
We are targeting to train our Agritex extension workers across the province who will in turn train farmers and inform them of the dangers.”
Mrs Magwenzi said the campaign was also meant to improve the quality of the crop in terms of grade and ensure that it fetches more money at the market.
Midlands Provincial Agronomist, Mr Innocent Dzuke said PVY virus was dangerous in that it also affects other crops besides tobacco.
“If the tendency continues unabated, we might end up with a number of crop diseases in the province.
PVY is caused by the bucks and stumps of tobacco that are left in fields after harvesting.
But the most dangerous part is that it spreads to other crops like tomatoes, potatoes or any other crop and it’s not easy to control,” said Mr Dzuke.