Tips on curing, grading and bailing tobacco

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By Shingirirai Mutonho

FARMERS must follow the correct procedure in curing and bailing tobacco to maintain the quality of the crop and ensure that it fetches favourable prices at the auction floors, experts have said.
The harvesting and curing of tobacco has begun in most tobacco growing regions with farmers stepping up preparations for the forthcoming marketing season.
The marketing of the golden leaf traditionally begins in March.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) crop specialist, Simbarashe Muchena said farmers had a role to play in ensuring their crop is of top grade.
“A quality tobacco leaf is long, soft to touch and it should be orange or lemon in colour,” Muchena said.
“All these attributes show that efforts were made by the farmer to put adequate fertiliser, and also the crop was properly cured.”
Most farmers rely on firewood to cure tobacco citing that the cost of coal is high.
The process of curing tobacco takes seven days.
Muchena said farmers should ensure the crop is cured at the recommended temperatures depending on the stages of the curing process.
After curing, the golden leaf is stored and then graded.
“Farmers should ensure that the crop is stored under the correct temperatures,” said Muchena.
“When high humidity is experienced, growers should ensure tobacco is in good keeping condition and not over conditioned as this may lead to mould.”
Once the crop is graded it is then bailed.
“Grease from the baling box screw should not come into contact with tobacco,” said Muchena.
“Tobacco for sale should not be transported together with diesel or any other fuel as this may contaminate the crop.
“Any tobacco that is contaminated with fuel will be withdrawn from sale.”

Below is a table showing the tips to follow when grading tobacco.

Grading Criteria Characteristics
Number of Grades Grades should be between 12 -15.
To promote speed and uniformity, leaf from different lands, different reapings, and different barns should
be kept separate.
Leaf Type Primings, Lugs, Leaf, Tips
Colour White, Lemon, Orange, Mahogany, Green
Factor Clean, Black Guinea Fowl, Green Guinea Fowl, Spot, Water Stain, High Maturity, Greenish, Slick and Slightly discoloured
Quality Good to fair, fair to medium and balance
Length Short or long

Types of bale
Tobacco may be baled in any of the following forms: Tied Leaf, straight laid loose Leaf, clean graded Strips or clean graded Scrap. Grower should never mix the forms.
Presentation of tobacco
Growers are reminded that graded tobacco leaves less than 18cm in length may be baled as loose leaf. Very short low stalk types may be difficult to straight lay and growers are advised to put every effort in presenting the tobacco as neatly as possible.
Butt sizes
Growers are reminded that oversize butts may be rejected on appeal. Butt size should be 25 – 28 mm
Bale size
The maximum bale dimensions are 61 cm x 86 cm x 61 cm. Growers who deliver bales whose dimensions are in excess of these are cautioned that such bales will be closed prior to sale and returned to the grower for re-handling.
Bale mass
The maximum bale dimensions are 61 cm x 86cm x 61cm. Growers who deliver bales whose dimensions are in excess of these are cautioned that such bales will be closed prior to sale and returned to the grower for re-handling.
Split bales
As Split bale is one containing two grades. A grower may deliver to the auction floor/ contractor a split bale under the following conditions:

Only two grades are put in a split bale
Grades must be bordering in regard to group, quality, colour and style. Bales with different tobacco will not be allowed to sell and will be closed up by classifier prior to sale
There will be no minimum weight for split bale
A sheet of the normal bale inner wrap should separate the grades in the bale and no other material maybe used for separation purposes.
Split bales should be declared by attaching a bale ticket on the end of the bale adjacent to the bale number ticket and marked ‘Split’.

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