Chipo Sabeta Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE has earned $871, 2 million from 176,4 million kilogrammes of tobacco exported mainly to South Africa and China since the beginning of 2017.
Statistics from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board’s latest weekly bulletin show that China accounted for over 58,2 million kg valued at $457,2 million while South Africa bought 23,5 million kg for $75,6 million. With an estimated 350 million smokers, China has been spending over $200 million per annum on Zimbabwean tobacco.
“As at November 10, 176,4 million kg were exported to 62 countries so far, generating $871,2 million into the local economy. During the same period last year tobacco exports generated $870,4 million from 154,2 million kg. The golden leaf is presently being exported to these countries at an average price of $4, 94 a kg compared to $5, 64 (in) the same period last year.
“Belgium has so far bought 21,7 million kg worth $65,04 million (average price of $2,99/kg), followed by Indonesia, which has spent $40,5 million on 9,7 million kg, while United Arab Emirates stands at 8,6 million kg worth $16,8 million,” TIMB said in its latest weekly bulletin.
Other buyers include Russia, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Hong Kong, France, Netherlands, Germany, Holland, Sudan, Spain and Tanzania. Last year, tobacco exports topped $933 million, which was a marginal surge from $855 million from the previous season.
During the 2017 marketing season, farmers sold 189 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco, with contract farmers contributing most of the deliveries at 158 million kg, while self-financed farmers weighed in with 31 million kg.
Meanwhile, farmers have planted more tobacco than last season. Manicaland Province is still leading all the country’s provinces in terms of the hectarage that has been put under flue-cured tobacco, having 12 703 hectares under the cash crop out of the 42 283ha planted countrywide.
The TIMB bulletin showed that the 42 283ha of tobacco planted throughout the country is a 0, 9 percent increase from the 41 496 ha planted in the same period last year.
The bulk of the hectarage, at 27 885, is under dry land, while 14 398 is under irrigation. Mashonaland Central tobacco farmers, who usually lead the pack are in second position, having so far planted 12 014ha, followed by Mashonaland East with 10 225ha and Mashonaland West with 6 319ha.
Many tobacco farmers are under contract farming where beneficiaries often access inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals timely. Some contracts even cover labour costs.
Agribank has come up with a $28 million tobacco kitty, which will ensure that the tobacco auction system remains in place as the domination of the contract system will entirely affect the tobacco sector through manipulation of the system as what happened to the cotton sector.
Tobacco registrations for the 2017 /8 season rose 37 percent to 100 723ha from 73 658ha last season, showing a high appetite of growing the golden leaf among farmers. Tobacco is the country’s highest foreign currency earner followed by gold.