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January 16, 2008

BAT contracts Zimbabwean outgrowers for tobacco crop

The British American Tobacco Company has contracted at least 1 120 Zimbabwean farmers to grow tobacco for its favoured blends of cigarettes, an official said last week.

"We have targeted 17 million kilogrammes but whether or not we will get that now depends on the weather," the official said. He said the heavy rains being received in the country were likely to reduce the quantity of the crop as soil nutrients were lost through leaching.

He said the company provided the farmers with inputs such as seed, fertilizer and chemicals, leaving them to concentrate on growing the crop.

Most farmers in Zimbabwe fail to produce to optimum levels due to difficulties they experience in sourcing inputs, some of which would be in short supply while others were too expensive.

The BAT official said availability of resources determined the number of farmers his company contracted, as it borrows some of the funds to purchase the necessary inputs. He said the criteria for selection included commitment and potential to produce quality crop, adding that the farmers were chosen from all tobacco growing areas in the country. He added that the number of farmers being contracted had been increasing gradually over the years.

While admitting that the company was benefiting from the outgrower scheme, the farmers — particularly new ones — were benefiting more as they received technical and agronomic support as well as being spared the hassle of sourcing inputs.

Tobacco production in Zimbabwe has been declining over the past few years due to, among others, high production costs that have seen many farmers switching to less capital intensive crops such as maize.

New Ziana

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