One of the country’s major tobacco contract companies, Ethical Leaf Tobacco, has unveiled a $660 million input facility called the Gold Class Scheme.

The scheme, which was launched on Friday last week, is fragmented into four groups namely gold class for farmers who produce 1 000kg and above, diamond 700kg, silver 500kg and bronze for those producing less than 500kg.

The company’s group managing director Andrew Mupfawa, said the launch was historic.

“This is a historic moment for Ethical Leaf Tobacco and the indigenous owned tobacco contract farming sector, because of the fact that no other indigenous company has launched an input scheme this huge,” he said.

“We are calling it the “Gold Class Scheme” because like gold, this is a precious input scheme, thoroughly crafted to produce the golden leaf at the end of the season.

“Our database has been growing each year and this has ultimately led to tonight, where we are launching this massive tobacco input scheme. We have heard the farmers and we are responding to their concerns.”

He said they were hoping for a better season as a result of the scheme.

“The 2020/2021 farming season will usher in a new dawn for ELT as it has had an overhaul of service delivery, which includes the Gold Class input scheme plus working capital, personalised agronomy services, agro-based services and enhanced logistical services.

“We hope that the personalised agronomy services will ensure that our farmers will achieve top quality production, which will translate to top prices come the next selling season.”

Mr Mupfawa said besides inputs the scheme also included working capital, personalised agronomy services, agro-based services and enhanced logistical services.

“Our aim is to light up the eyes of the smallholder farmers that we work with each time they see us coming and each time they hear from us.

“We want to prosper that person whose hope may be fading away and our aim is to make sure that hard work which is put into the soil, becomes something tangible at the end of every selling season,” he said.

“Like our name connotes, we as Ethical Leaf Tobacco, are governed by the desire to conduct our business ethically, and this has been evident throughout the years we have been in business.”

ELT, which started operating four years ago, has managed to grow the amount of tobacco that it is handling from 6,5 million kg in the 2016/17 season to 9,8 million kg.

ELT, which has over 15 000 tobacco contract farmers, employs about 900 people.

Meanwhile at least 135,42 million kilograms of tobacco worth US$326,30 million have been sold so far at auction and contract floors in the country since the selling season opened on April 29 this year, statistics from the industry regulator show.

In a trading update on day 51, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board said the sales were 18,36 percent higher than that in the same period  last year, which stood at US$275,69 million.

The average price at auction and contract floors was US$2,41 per kg, also higher than US$1,84 in the same period of last year.

Tobacco is the southern African nation’s second largest foreign currency earner after gold. The golden leaf is arguably one of the  success stories of agriculture in the post-land reform era.

In 2019, the country sold 259 million kg of tobacco worth more than  US$500 million, up from 253 million kg in 2018.