HEADLANDS commercial farm, Landos Farm, owned by Greame Chadwick was last month charged a total of US$9 700 for violating the Plants, Pests and Diseases Act [Chapter 19:08], which prohibits the planting of tobacco seedlings before the start of the tobacco farming season which kicks off on the 1st of September of every year.
The fines which were two in succession were handed out to the Headlands farm by enforcement officers from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement through its subsidiary Tobacco Research Board (TRB). Landos Farm human resources Officer Godfrey Chirimo reportedly admitted to violating the Act.
TRB officer Itai Mazhangara said that he received a tip off from neighbouring tobacco farmers that planting had started at Landos Farm from as early as May this year.
“Upon visiting the farm on August 14, I discovered that 16 hectares of tobacco seedlings had already been planted. I issued a verbal warning to the farm managers and urged them to desist from the practice and told them to destroy their early plantings as it invites deadly pests into tobacco farming areas before the tobacco planting season begins,” said Mazhangara.
An admission of guilt ticket shown to this reporter indicates that on August 18, Landos Farm had paid an initial fine of US$2 000 to a health inspector stationed in Marondera.
However, on August 20, Mazhangara who was in the company of Lovemore Mwavurudza, who is a plant health inspector with Department of Research and Specialist Services returned to the farm to check on compliance to the verbal warning. Only to find out that a further 20 hectares of tobacco seedlings had been planted afterwards.
“When I asked the loss control manager who identified himself as James Banda why they were being non-compliant with the tobacco regulations, he said that the farm’s human resources manager (Godfrey Chirimo) was in possession of a letter that gave them the greenlight to continue operations,” he said.
Adding, “When I visited Chirimo and asked him to produce the said letter, instead he just showed the US$2000 ticket which they had paid for in the first charge. I asked him why he was continuing with farming operations, but he could not say a clear answer,” said Mazhangara.
That is when they issued another penalty to Landos Farm which amounted to US$9 700. Landos Farm has been operating since 1999. Chadwick’s mobile phone was not reachable by time of going to press, as this publication made efforts to get his comment on the matter.
Outbreaks of pests and diseases during the tobacco farming season have often been attributed to poor farming methods and failure to adhere to the tobacco planting calendar by farmers.
The Plant, Pests and Diseases (Tobacco) Regulations SI 711 of 1979 stipulates that tobacco seed may not be sown before the first of June every year and tobacco seedlings may not be planted in the field before September 1, every year.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s most lucrative foreign currency generators and sits second behind gold. At the close of the previous season in April, it is estimated that about 200 kilograms of tobacco was produced. In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the gold leaf generated US$782 million in foreign currency.