Just as it is everywhere and with everyone – when you sow, you expect to reap. And so it is for the tobacco farmers in Kasungu district. You may remember how they grew their seedlings in nurseries in early October, since then they have transplanted the small tobacco plants to the fields and have been tending to them over the past few months. It is now time to reap.
All tobacco farmers are now busy with plucking, drying and grading in readiness for the market. Plucking is done when there is no rain or dews in the field. Only leaves that are a bit yellowish in color (not because of lack of fertilizer but because of maturity) are the ones being plucked. For flu cured tobacco, the system is different. Flu cured can be plucked even when it is raining and, unlike barley tobacco which can be plucked everyday, flu cured is plucked at an interval of seven days.
While barley tobacco is dried using open shades that allow moving air to blow across the tobacco leaves until they are completely dry, flu cured tobacco is smoked dry in specially built sheds. This requires a lot of firewood and some understandings of science especially when using the thermometer. The drying houses have small furnaces at the back where firewood is used to give smoke and steam which later dries the leaves inside the building. While a dry barley tobacco leaf looks brown, a flu cured tobacco leaf is more yellowish in color when it is dry.
Once dried, tobacco is then taken for grading according to quality. All tobacco of the same quality is put in one place for bundling to be made into a Bale weighing different kilograms ranging from 50-115.
People can do tobacco farming independently or as part of a company. Most people from JMV communities in Kasungu are smallholder farmers which means they grow tobacco on their own land independently and sell their tobacco produce, either on the Auction floors or to a private company or middle man”. As smallholders, they are also responsible for transporting their tobacco to Auction floors with private transporters.
The price of tobacco is mainly influenced by the quality, grading and packaging. The price is also affected when non tobacco related materials are found in a bale of tobacco at the auction floor/market.