Tobacco exports reach $164 million

HARARE - Zimbabwe has exported 37,5 million kilogrammes (kg) of tobacco worth over $164 million to 44 countries, with Belgium being the top buyer, latest Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) statistics indicate.

Belgium purchased a total mass of 10,8 million kg of exported tobacco worth $50,5 million at an average price of $4,68 per kg.

United Arab Emirates came in at second place with 5,6 million kgs worth $16,1 million, but at a lower average price of $2,86 per kg.

South Africa, which maintained a pole position last year, came in a distant third after purchasing 4,3 million kgs to the value of $19,5 million at an average price of $4,47 per kg.

China occupied fourth position with a recorded total of 3,6 million kgs of tobacco to date worth $23,2 million at a higher average price of $6,39 per kg, while Russia was fifth following the  purchasing of a total mass of 2,2 million kgs worth $7,4 million at an average price of $3,34 per kg.

This comes after tobacco production in the southern African nation surpassed the 210 million kg mark for the first time in 14 years as the rebound in output continues, driven by small-scale farmers.

The last time output surpassed 210 million kg was in 2000 when it reached 227 726 000kg. By Tuesday this week, 210,6 million kgs had gone under the hammer at the country’s three auction floors — Boka, Premier and TSF — raking in $668 million.

During the same period last year, 159 852 776 kg had been sold valued at $590 million.

Most of the tobacco has been brought under the contract system, which is accounting for more than 50 percent of the delivered crop piling pressure on auctions whose survival is now under threat.

In May, auction floors told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Lands and Mechanisation that the absence of funding from banks means that farmers have to go under contract thereby killing the auction floors.

“Banks stopped funding farmers and it is contractors that fund them, which kills business at auction floors,” said Premier Tobacco Floors managing director Philemon Mangena.

Tobacco has become the preferred crop among farmers due to the good returns unlike other crops such as maize and cotton.

This has seen an increase in the number of growers.

Timb statistics showed that 106 456 growers have so far registered compared to about 91 278 registered during the same period last year. Out of the registered growers are new ones with Mashonaland West registering 11 713 growers, Mashonaland Central 8 231 growers, Manicaland (5 465), Mashonaland East (4 135), Midlands (338), Masvingo (265) and Matabeleland had the least number of registered growers with five.

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