Tobacco farmers earn $266m

HARARE - This year’s tobacco selling season has already seen the green-leaf farmers earning $266 million since its opening in February, up eight percent from $246 million raked in the prior period last year.

Figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) reveal that farmers, who sold 25,9 million kgs of their crop at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, Premier Tobacco Auction Floors and Tobacco Sales Floors, received $79 million while contract farmers collected $191 million from the sale of 57 million kg.

However, tobacco prices — which were firmer in the previous season — have declined by 14,18 percent averaging $3,21 this year compared to $3,79 in 2013.

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

Tobacco production has remarkably boosted the rural economy, providing jobs to hundreds of workers in a country which has an unemployment rate of over 80 percent.

Communal farmers have taken virtual charge of tobacco farming in Zimbabwe and now constitute over 40 percent of registered farmers last year.

In the 2013/14 season, more than 88 000 growers registered as compared to 65 444 who had done so at the same time last year.

Out of the registered growers, 26 816 are new growers. 

Of these, more than 1 000 are new growers from Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland North, areas which were previously non-traditional tobacco growing areas.

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 a violent 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 flue-cured tobacco.

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