HARARE - Zimbabwe’s tobacco exports surged to $341 million in the first week of August from the sale of 64 million kilogrammes (kg), compared to $231 million recorded in the corresponding period last year, latest official figures show.
The country is expected to export over $600 million worth of tobacco this year, a far cry from $800 million worth of tobacco exported in the last two years due to low production compelled by harsh climatic conditions.
Statistics released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) yesterday showed that China remained the country’s biggest buyer having bought 22 million kg tobacco worth $184 million at an average price of $8,41 per kg.
Market watchers say that China and Zimbabwe’s trade in tobacco started in the 1980s after the Chinese developed an interest in the pale to lemon coloured tobacco produced mostly under irrigation in the Highveld areas of Marondera, Wedza, Beatrice and Harare South.
The last 10 years saw a major shift in China’s import patterns as the Asian giant broadened its scope to include all quality tobacco that is produced in Zimbabwe.
South Africa came in second having bought 8,1 million kg of the golden leaf worth $24 million at an average price of $2,92 per kg.
Indonesia was on third position after importing 4,9 million kg of tobacco worth $20 million at an average price of $4,21 per kg.
Belgium and United Arab Emirates completed the top five after purchasing tobacco worth $4,8 million and $3,7 million respectively.
The highest export price was $8,64 per kg offered by Holland when it bought 39 600kg, while Egypt offered the lowest price after buying 31 600kg for $0,12 per kg.
Zimbabwe earned $577 million for 196 million kg of tobacco this season, a 15 percent decrease from last year’s $676 million.
Overall output missed the 220 million kg production target for the just ended season but tobacco farming continues to rebound after years of decline.
To date, about 75 392 growers have sold their tobacco for the 2015 season as compared to about 86 975 who sold by the same period last year.
Over the past few years Zimbabwean farmers have been abandoning maize farming due to viability concerns.
Industry experts say most local farmers are now seized with growing tobacco and not the staple crop or other food crops, thereby pushing the country into serious food insecurity.
According to Word Food Programme more than 1,5 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation in the country.