• April 18, 2024

Research under-appreciated

 Research under-appreciated
Dahlia Garwe

Zimbabwe’s government is failing to fund the country’s Tobacco Research Board (TRB) despite its being a key institution in the effort to turn around the fortunes of the country’s economy, according to a story in The News Day.

TRB general manager Dahlia Garwe last week told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, which was on tour, that 75 percent of the capital used to run the research institute came from their own commercial activities, mostly from seed production at Kutsaga.

“As a parastatal, we are supposed to get funding from the government, but we have not received anything and TRB has been self-supporting,” Garwe said.

“Government collects an 0.078 percent tobacco levy and it is shared by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) and TRB, as well as other interested bodies, which contributes to about 30 percent to 35 percent of our revenue, while the 65 percent to 75 percent shortfall is borne by ourselves.”

Despite this lack of government support, the TRB had managed to produce tobacco seed varieties for the local and export market, and Kutsaga was said to be a very reputable seed research institute internationally.

Garwe said the TRB exported annually one and a half tons of Burley seed and 100 kg of flue-cured seed.

And the TRB currently has about 1,200 ha of seedlings that have been booked by farmers for planting in September. The seedlings are sold for $398 per ha.

The TRB management said it was facing challenges over raw materials that had to be ordered from outside Zimbabwe because, at times, it took six months for them to be delivered.

And it was facing problems because it needed to replace the equipment used in its laboratories. Some of this equipment had been used since the 1950s and when it broke down, it was difficult to get replacements because developed countries were now using modern equipment.

Garwe said other challenges included those associated with land, as well as those associated with illegal settlers, some of whom had invaded TRB space and were vandalizing fences and materials such as plastics used for growing tobacco seeds.