Tobacco sales reach $315m

HARARE - Zimbabwe tobacco farmers have so far earned $315 million from the sale of 112 million kilogrammes (kg) of the golden leaf since the beginning of this year’s selling season in March.

Figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board yesterday showed that farmers who sold their crop at auction floors earned $81 million from the sale of 33 million kg of the golden leaf while contract farmers earned $235 million from 75 million kg.

The average price per kilo this year was $2,92 compared to last year’s $3,21 showing a variance of 8,84 percent, the board said.

By day 49 of trading at least 1,3 million bales of tobacco had been sold compared to 1,45 million sold in the same period last year, while 127 558 bales had been rejected against 85 531 bales recorded in the comparable period in 2014.

Tobacco farming is slowly rebounding after years of decline following farm disruptions over the last decade when President Robert Mugabe’s government seized white-owned commercial farms to give to blacks.

Production has been rising since 2009 — reaching 216 million kg last year — though it remains off a peak in 2000 of 236 million kg.

Zimbabwe was once the world’s biggest tobacco exporter, with sales accounting for 30 percent of exports, but production fell to a low of 55,6 million kg on 2006, the weakest performance since independence from Britain in 1980.

The sudden collapse of commercial farming caused by the land reforms sent Zimbabwe’s already wobbly economy into a tailspin, leading to world-record hyperinflation.

Mugabe has defended the scheme as necessary to redress colonial-era injustices, but the violent campaign had a political colouring linked to deadly attacks against his rivals.

The inflation, believed to have reached multiples of billions in 2008, made it impossible for the new farmers to budget to buy fertilisers and other supplies.

After the government abolished the Zimbabwe dollar and made the United States dollar its currency of reference, farm production stabilised and began ticking upward.

Tobacco remains the country’s biggest agricultural export, though mining has overtaken farming as the main foreign currency earner.

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