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Zim ventures into Shisha farming

Zimbabwe farmers are exploring the new shisha golden leaf amid a surge in demand of the new tobacco both locally and on the international market.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) sold 7 233 kilograms of shisha on its first-floor sale at an opening of US $ 4.70 which is higher than the average selling price of the Virginia crop.
The maiden shisha golden leaf has gained market traction due to the low volume of low nicotine content and can be cultivated across all regions in the country.
The initial trial run saw more than 100 hectares of land being put under Shisha tobacco and only 12 farmers contracted to grow the crop.
TIMB has licensed Cavendish Lloyd, to monitor and assist in the maiden golden leaf production.
Cavendish agronomist Joash Makwenje said Shisha tobacco farmers would increase their hectare in the next season to achieve the projected 2 000 000 kilograms.
“With the normal plant a farmer needs about 15 000 plants per hectare whereas with the shisha tobacco, 32 000 plants are required to grow on the same piece of land,” Makwenje said.
Shisha tobacco is cultivated in almost the same way as the traditional Virginia tobacco with minor differences in agronomy.
It uses staggered low amounts of fertilizer, and it is not topped (apical bud removal) to minimize nicotine amounts in the leaf.
Makwenje said Shisha tobacco plants are hector intensive as opposed to the normal Virginia plants which then maximize produce.
Rusape-based farmer, Jaison Scot said the shisha tobacco needs careful handling since the leaf is very light with less nicotine.
“The shisha leaf has a higher plant population than the ordinary leaf and it's paying well, I used less fertilizer than the Virginia leaf which cut on the production costs.”
Another farmer from Marondera said the shisha golden leaf price was fair with the opening exceeding US $5 and the rip-off going for at least US $1.
The shisha plant is easier to maintain than the popular Virginia leaf since the former has less field work like pruning the leaves.
Shisha is different from the known traditional flue-cured Virginia tobacco. Unlike cigarettes, this type of tobacco is consumed using a device called a hookah or waterpipe.
A hookah or waterpipe is a single- or multi-stemmed instrument for heating or vaporizing and then smoking the tobacco.  An individual pulls from a pipe, and then the smoke is passed through a water basin, often glass-based, before inhalation. This is the reason why shisha is referred to by others as pipe tobacco.



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