Zimpapers chief executive Mr Justin Mutasa, who on Thursday scooped the Tobacco Sales Floor 2012 Tobacco Grower of the Year Award coming third in the commercial farming competition, has attributed his success to proper planning. Such success, he said, testified to the nobleness of black economic empowerment. Mr Mutasa won a ridger after selling 39 000 kilograms of tobacco at an average price of US$4,36 per kg.
Mr Mutasa produced 14 hectares of tobacco at his Chinomwe Extension Farm in Raffingora.
Of the 14 hectares, 10 were produced under irrigation while the remaining four were grown under dry land.
Mr Mutasa said he was happy to be awarded for the hard work after 10 years of serious farming.
"I had a metre-long leaf, which was of good quality. The length of the crop determines the quality of the crop," he said.
Mr Mutasa said he balances his job at Zimpapers and farming through proper planning.
"Farming requires adequate planning and managing of time. I manage my farm through a competitive farm manager, Mr Luke Muyeva," he said.
Mr Mutasa stressed the need for adequate knowledge when producing tobacco. He sends his workers to the Tobacco Research Board at Kutsaga Station for refresher courses.
"I have seen the benefits of learning important agronomic practices," said Mr Mutasa.
"There are experts at the Kutsaga Station and they train workers in all-important subjects such as soil testing and fertiliser application.
"As a farmer, I have realised the importance of knowing the chemical content of fertiliser and the correct application of the correct type of fertiliser.
"I do not just apply fertiliser using any cup size, but I am fully aware of the size of the cup to use on certain soils. I know my soils through soil testing."
Mr Mutasa said soil testing was important in tobacco production.
"After soils tests, experts will use the results to make recommendations on fertiliser requirements, in that way a farmer will never go wrong," he said.
"I know my soil. I always apply fertiliser and this is giving me good results."
Mr Mutasa warned that tobacco was a high risk, but high value crop that required involvement of the farmer.
"One needs to get inputs on time. When I sold my crop, I bought inputs for the following season," he said.
"Farmers should not squander all the proceeds after selling their produce, but they should use part of it to procure inputs for the next season."
Mr Mutasa said his workers were the best resource he had on his farm. He said workers should not be paid slave wages.
"A farmer should always take care of the welfare of his workers.
"I am now in the process of electrifying all the 34 houses of workers and by December the whole compound will have electricity," he said.
The compound already has tap water. Mr Mutasa also said it was important for farmers to have machinery and be able to service and maintain it.
Mr Mutasa expressed appreciation to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board for addressing some of the challenges that were being faced by farmers when marketing their crop.
He said he was planning to increase tobacco hectarage during the 2012/13 cropping season from 14 hectares to 20 under irrigation.
Mr Mutasa has 85 cattle and is going to diversify to piggery and production of other crops to boost profits.