Tobacco farmers face prosecution

HARARE - The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) says farmers who do not destroy their golden leaf stalks by next Tuesday will be prosecuted.

According to the country’s regulations, farmers are expected to comply with the Plant Pests and Diseases Act to prevent the carryover of diseases and pests to the next farming seasons.

“All tobacco growers are reminded that the Plant Pests and Diseases Act (Chapter 19: 08) requires that all tobacco stalks be destroyed by May 15 of every year,” TIMB said.

“Destruction of stalks helps to reduce carryover of diseases and pests. This is most effective when tobacco stalks are destroyed immediately after the final harvest. Tobacco growers who fail to destroy stalks should be reported to Department of Research and Specialist Services (Plant Quarantine Services Institute), Agritex, Tobacco Research Board or TIMB.”

The caution comes at a time when the tobacco industry is battling the resurgence  of a virus called potato virus Y (PVY), caused mainly by farmers who fail to destroy their stalks after harvesting.

This year, PVY, became a huge challenge to tobacco farming.

According to the Tobacco Research Board, the outbreak of diseases across the country could have cut tobacco yield by about 30 percent.

TRB and the TIMB attributed the outbreak of the PYV disease to growers failing to adhere to the legislated stalk destruction, sowing and planting dates, putting the Zimbabwe tobacco industry at risk.

These requirements are enshrined in the Act, which states that tobacco plants must be destroyed before May 15 each year and lands other than those being used for the current season’s crop should be free of living tobacco plants at all times.

The PVY disease was first detected in Zimbabwe in the 1930s through research done by TRB. In the 1960s, the disease devastated the Zimbabwean golden leaf.

The threat of the viral disease returned in the 2004/6 season with nearly 100 percent yield losses being reported on flue-cured tobacco.

Now, the disease is threatening to collapse the tobacco industry.

Additionally, other relevant sections of the Act, state that tobacco should not be sown before June 1 of each year and that tobacco seedlings should not be transplanted into the field before September 1 of each year.

It further states that all seedbeds must be destroyed as soon as they are no longer required for the current season’s crop and no later than December 31 of each year. These legislated dates are based on data collected by TRB researchers.

For a contravention of regulations requiring the destruction of tobacco plants by a specified date or prohibiting the planting of tobacco plants between specified dates, a grower will be subjected to a fine not exceeding $100 — for a first offence — for each hectare or face one year imprisonment or both.

TIMB noted that for a second or subsequent conviction, farmers will be liable “To a fine not exceeding two hundred dollars for each hectare or part thereof in respect of which the offence is committed or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment”.

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