Farmers' failure to destroy tobacco stalks has prompted stakeholders in the industry to consider other punitive strategies on growers in order to promote compliance.
The Plant Pests and Disease Act (Chapter 19:08) makes it mandatory for farmers to destroy all living tobacco plants by the May 15 deadline as failure would attract a fine.
Failure to comply will attract a fine of $500 per hectare.
Non-compliance by farmers in removing stalks has resulted in the spread of diseases, thereby threatening the lucrative tobacco industry.
Tobacco Research Board chief executive, Dr Dahlia Garwe said the practice of not destroying plant stalks has increased despite the efforts being made by different stakeholders in the tobacco industry to educate farmers.
She said the industry was now looking at other alternatives as a way of encouraging farmers to destroy stalks.
"Most commercial farmers are compliant and they destroy stalks. The problem is rampant in small scale faring areas. We are now trying new strategies. We feel the fine has not been deterrent enough.
"We feel the situation could improve if the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board stops registering farmers who would have failed to destroy stalks.
"As TRB, we are also going to use GIS to try and locate farmers who are not compliant so that authorities can enforce.
"We are also promoting self-policing among farmers. Tobacco growers will encourage each other to adhere to the regulation," she said.
The non-destruction of stalks is threatening the tobacco sector which is immensely contributing to the well-being of the economy.
Authorities mainly raised concern over the resurgence of a tobacco disease, Potato Virus Y, a viral disease that has the potential to wipe out the whole crop.
PVY had been under control for some years, but due to the failure by farmers to adhere to strict regulations of destroying stalks and crop residues, the disease has since resurfaced.