Persistent rains which Zimbabwe has been experiencing have presented problems of leaching and water logging, posing a threat to the output of tobacco, the country's most import export, the industry regulator says.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) corporate communications manager Isheunesu Moyo told New Ziana Tuesday that preliminary findings from the crop assessment currently underway show that rain-fed tobacco had been affected by incessant rains.

We are urging farmers to re-apply fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate that would have been washed away by the rains, he said. Crop assessment is still going on so the volume of affected tobacco is yet to be ascertained."

In its weekly tobacco bulletin, the TIMB said leaching and water logging problems had also resulted in false ripening of tobacco. The TIMB said rains had also brought humid conditions which were

prolonging curing periods for tobacco.

Irrigated tobacco has been cured already so the rain-fed crop is the one being cured, said Moyo.

There were a few cases where tobacco was hit by hailstorms in Mashonaland West Province, the board said.

As at January 25th, at least 107,035 hectares of land had been put under tobacco. According to the TIMB, at least 81,548 farmers registered to grow tobacco during this cropping season, representing a 16 per cent increase from last year's 70,462 growers.

Since the country started using multiple foreign currencies in 2009, the tobacco industry has been one of the fastest to recover from the economic meltdown of the past decade due to favourable prices and organized marketing.

Many farmers have been abandoning other cash crops such as cotton for tobacco because of the favourable prices and orderly marketing.