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Consumers grab raw tobacco - 'Grabba' makes its mark

Published:Sunday | July 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Pandohie
Carmen Stewart of Burnt Savannah in St Elizabeth.-photos by Stephen Brown
Claudius Clarke with some dried tobacco grown at his home in Knoxwood, St Elizabeth.
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"Wha kind a grabba dat you selling? A nuh red herring? The rope twist dem nuh good … ," are lyrics from the dancehall song Hot Grabba, recorded by entertainers Vybz Kartel and his protégé, Popcaan.

The term 'hot grabba' is the street name for raw tobacco, which is becoming increasingly popular for local smokers.

Windel 'Archie' Allen, a tobacco farmer, says that the process from field preparation to reaping and drying the crop for sale is about 16 weeks.

"When you setting up the nursery, you need a lot of water. The seeds need water to hatch," declared Allen, who said 'pack leaf' and 'cow tongue' are the two most popular varieties of local tobacco.

"If the season is good, like plenty rainfall, within eight weeks the suckers can be implanted."

According to Allen, the nursery is prepared by digging out weeds and shovelling off soft soil.

The dried tobacco seeds are then reduced to dust and are mixed with chemicals before being sown.

The area is then covered with grass, frequently watered and within five to six days, there should be evidence of germination.

The tobacco plants are watered daily until they reach maturation, at which stage they are cut and hung to dry.

The stalks and leaves are then twisted and sold per pound to buyers at the standard rate of $600 per pound.

The reward for the farmer is sweetened if there is a shortage of tobacco on the market, usually in drought periods. At that time the raw tobacco can fetch as much as $1,000 per pound.

nagra.plunkett@gleanerjm.com