Zimbabwe has earned $666,8 million from 123,7 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 27,4 million kg valued at $217,4 million while South Africa bought 17,8 million kg for $52,5 million. With an estimated 350 million smokers, China has been spending over $200 million per annum on Zimbabwean tobacco. Part of the TIMB weekly bulletin reads: “As of last week (Thursday) October 26, 123,7 million kg were exported to more than 60 countries so far, generating $666,8 million into the local economy.
“During the same period last year tobacco exports generated $591,6 million from 111,9 million kg. The golden leaf is presently being exported to these countries at an average price of $4,49 a kg compared to $5,28 (in) the same period last year.”Belgium has so far bought 16,8 million kg worth $50,2 million (average price of $5,14/kg), followed by Indonesia, which has spent $33,3 million on 7,9 million kg, while United Arab Emirates stands at 7,5 million kg worth $14,6 million. 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 already started planting for the upcoming season. Mashonaland East Province is still leading all the country’s provinces in terms of the hectarage that has been put under flue-cured tobacco, having 5 625 hectares under the cash crop out of the 15 296ha planted countrywide.
The TIMB bulletin showed that the 15 296ha of tobacco planted throughout the country is a 0,9 percent increase from the 15 154 ha planted in the same period last year. The bulk of the hectarage, at 13 947, is under irrigation, while 1 349ha is under dry land. Mashonaland West tobacco farmers, who usually lead the pack are in second position, having so far planted 3 828ha, followed by Mashonaland Central with 3 636ha and Manicaland with 2 207ha.
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 39 percent to 93 795 from 67 493 last season. This shows a high appetite of growing the golden leaf among farmers. Tobacco is the country’s highest foreign currency earner followed by gold. The central bank is considering opening the auctions floors early in a bid to ease foreign currency pressure Zimbabwe is experiencing.