Tobacco farming is a very lucrative business venture with the potential for tobacco farmers to realize at least 100% returns on investments. Tobacco is a significantly important cash crop that is highly valued especially by some countries due to its export value. As much as the crop has high prospects for profitability you must bear in mind that tobacco farming involves a lot of labour. The other thing to also bear in mind is that you cannot take short cuts. Tobacco farming thrives for you if you come up with high quality crops and that takes diligence and expertise. This article discusses some important information that can help you start your own tobacco farming business.
Key Requirements And Components
The best thing to do when starting out is to do your own seed bed(s). Irrigation makes for a huge difference in yields realized as opposed to the absence of irrigation. Higher yields are realized when irrigation is involved so you might want to consider that route. An acre of irrigated tobacco can yield on average 400 kg more tobacco than an acre that is not irrigated. The yield for one hectare can range from 2 tonnes and can be as high as 4 tonnes depending on the prowess of the farmer. The soil requirements depend on the type of tobacco you intend to grow but generally it is just variations of loam soils. The soil must have good drainage, good aeration and the pH can be anything between 5 and 6.5.
Equipment needed varies but since we have underscored the need for irrigation you will need to source such equipment. The basic farming implements you will require will depend on your level of mechanisation plus the scale of production also. The other indispensable components you will need are structures that you will use for processes such as curing. It is important that you seek guidance from experts or other farmers on the specifications for such structures.
Seeds should be planted roughly a month to a month and half before the last frost date. Transplantation can be done after 2 months and the plants should spend at most 3 months in the field. Adequate water supply is paramount which is why irrigation is highly recommended. You must also do regular cultivation to destroy weeds and also pests.
The definitive indication that harvest is now due is when formation of flower heads begins. This, of course, will be in consonance with an apparent indication that the tobacco crop has reached full growth. This would suggest that leaves at the bottom can now be picked. There are 2 broad approaches when it comes to tobacco harvesting. Leaves can be picked one by one starting from the bottom giving an allowance of about 3 days between picking sessions. This would mean that you pick the leaves by virtue of which ripen first. Alternatively, you can harvest the tobacco by cutting the whole plant in one go. The choice between these two approaches is informed by the type of tobacco you are growing. The leaf by leaf approach can be used for Burley tobacco whilst the whole plant approach can be used for Oriental tobacco.
After harvesting then comes the Curing stage which is central to the ultimate quality of your tobacco crop. There are different types of curing that can be done e.g. air curing, fire curing, sun curing, flue curing and so on. The choice is informed by the type of tobacco you will be dealing with. Using the earlier-mentioned examples of Burley and Oriental tobacco they are air cured and sun cured respectively.
Make Sure You Have A Comprehensive Tobacco Farming Business Plan
The failure to plan is the beginning of business failure. The tobacco farming business plan must be clear and succinct enough to give your potential partners, clients and investors an overview of what your objectives are. At the same time, it must be detailed enough to explain the operations of the business that you propose. At the very minimum you need to have the following included in your tobacco farming business plan:
- The mission, vision and operational strategy
- Market Analysis And Customer Segmentation
- A business case showing that the business is financial viable and sustainable
- A marketing and customer care plan
- An organizational chart and human resource policy
- A three-year expansion outlook
- A risk and rewards Analysis
In principle, this is always informed by the scale of production and level of mechanisation. However, as for tobacco farming, a significant number of workers are needed. This is because most of crucial stages of the farming process require manual human hands. The good thing though is that workers can always be enlisted on a short-term contractual basis which eliminates human resource maintenance costs. The other advantage is that it is usually easy to find low-cost human labour. The presence of specialized activities along the way might call upon you to have professionally trained personnel either as contractors or consultants.
On a small scale tobacco is somehow capital-inexpensive but with a big scale costs can be quite significant. One way you can address this is by renting equipment as opposed to purchasing equipment. Another common approach to manage costs is to engage in contract farming. This is whereby you enter working agreements with interested tobacco buyers. These buyers will be the ones that will foot the bill for the costs that will be incurred during the farming of the crop. Then you will agree on how much you will get from the working arrangement at the end of the day.
Tobacco farming entails a unique approach when it comes to the marketing and selling side. The approaches might vary from country to country so you must be privy to how the system is like for your host country. In some nations there are accredited auction floors where farmers take their tobacco crop. At such auction floors there will various types of merchants spanning from domestic to foreign ones. This means the quality of your crop will play a major role in landing merchants and high prices. So basically tobacco is not that crop that you can grow and then sell like you would other crops.
So there you have it; we believe this article has been helpful. Do not hesitate to engage existing tobacco farmers and to get involved in tobacco farming-related events or organizations. You must ensure you are ever-learning and keeping abreast with the industry trends.