Power cuts in Zimbabwe are impacting irrigation and increasing tobacco farmers’ production costs, reports The Herald, citing Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) CEO Rodney Ambrose.
“Power outages from about 0500 hours in the morning to as late as 2200 hours are a major concern in most growing areas at the moment,” Ambrose was quoted a saying. “Growers are struggling to complete their irrigation cycles and are relying on diesel powered generators, incurring huge costs.”
Ambrose said the crop quality, yield and grower viability would likely be compromised as the option of running generators for irrigation is not sustainable. With curing of the irrigated crop scheduled to start in early December power demand will increase further.
“We are engaging with the power utility to identify clusters where power supply can be prioritized just like they did for the wheat program. However, if power deficits persist nationally, the cluster solution may not entirely resolve the issue. The next option is to plead with the government to provide subsidized diesel or allow duty free imports of fuel primarily for powering generators,” said Ambrose.
Ambrose believes the long-term solution is for farmers to transition to solar power although this has a costly outlay that requires growers to have access to long term financing.
It will also require the government to permit duty-free and tax-free imports of solar equipment for farming activities, he added.
Tobacco farmers have planted 22,298 hectares this season, including 16,962 hectares of irrigated tobacco, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.
The report said 105,805 growers had been registered so far compared to 133,724 registered growers during the same period last year, marking a 26 percent decline.