Virus lockdown darkens hopes for Zimbabwean tobacco rebound – Rappler

Virus lockdown darkens hopes for Zimbabwean tobacco rebound – Rappler

TOBACCO. A woman carrying a load of tobacco leaves after hand reaping the crop at Tilisa farm in Bromley, Zimbabwe, on April 15, 2020. Photo by Jekesai Njikizana/AFP

TOBACCO. A woman carrying a load of tobacco leaves after hand reaping the crop at Tilisa farm in Bromley, Zimbabwe, on April 15, 2020. Photo by Jekesai Njikizana/AFP

BROMLEY, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean tobacco farm manager Shaw Mutalepo fretted over his harvest earlier this year when rainfall became erratic.

Now a coronavirus lockdown has added to his woes.

He does not even know whether he will be able to sell his golden-brown leaf when auctions are supposed to start. The official selling season starts on Monday, April 20.

“This year our harvest hasn’t been good at all…just average,” Mutalepo told Agence France-Presse (AFP) as a group of workers picked up leaves, keeping a required safe distance from each other in a bid stop any spread of the virus.

In barns at his 15-hectare (37-acre) farm in Bromley in eastern Zimbabwe, other workers – face masks on – were crunching cured leaves into large bales.

Many growers fear the virus lockdown could delay the start in Harare next week of the all-important tobacco-selling season, a scenario with far-reaching consequences for farmers and the government.

Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second biggest foreign currency earner after gold – a lifeline for an economy crippled by shortfalls in basics from Source…

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