Tobacco volumes up 19 percent

HARARE - Tobacco sales volumes for the 2014 season have reached 71,6 million kilogrammes (kg), 19,37 percent higher than 60 million kg recorded in the same period last year.

This translates to $228 million earned since the beginning of the season mid-February compared to $224 million realised in 2013.

Statistics released by Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb), indicate that farmers who sold 22,5 million kg of the commodity at Boka, Premier and Tobacco Sales auctions received $64 million while contract farmers earned $163 million from 49 million kg.

However, prices have declined 14,94 percent to average $3,19 per kg this season compared to around $3,75 last year.

Zimbabwean farmers have since 2009 been increasingly engaged in tobacco farming due to its favourable prices compared to cotton and maize prices.

In the 2013/14 season more than 88 000 growers registered as compared to 65 444 last year.

Meanwhile, at least 180 million kg is expected to be sold this year up from 166 million kg, earning the country $621,1 million.

However, agriculture experts believe that the heavy rains the country received in January and February greatly compromised both the quality and quantity of tobacco.

They estimate that a yield of one-and-a-half to two tonnes per hectare has to be reviewed downwards.

At the peak of output, the southern African country produced 236 million kg of tobacco, which is commonly referred to as the golden leaf locally and is grown mainly by small-scale farmers.

Prior to the land-reform programme, supported by President Robert Mugabe, which began in 2000, the country grew most of its tobacco on large commercial farms.

Zimbabwe traditionally competes with countries including Brazil and the United States as a key source of the top-quality variety of the crop known as Virginia and burley tobacco.

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