HARARE - Zimbabwe's tobacco exports have increased by 190 percent to 21,1 million kilogrammes (kg) in the first two weeks of 2016 fetching $161 million compared to 7,3 million kg sold in the same period last year, latest figures show.
The latest data from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) comes at a time when total hectarage for the planted crop has declined significantly from 93 419 ha in the 2014/2015 farming season to 89 559 ha this year due to late rains and lack of inputs.
Zimbabwe, which registered 198 million kg of tobacco last year, is facing a very serious drought this agricultural season, together with the rest of the southern Africa region. The drought is reportedly linked to the El Niño.
Since October 2015, a month when the rain starts, the region experienced unprecedented heat waves with temperatures soaring as high as 42 degrees Celsius. The heat waves persisted into November and December and early January 2016, months which traditionally are peak rainfall.
A survey by businessdaily revealed that most peasant farmers who planted their crops in November last year, have lost all their crop as it has wilted succumbing to the heat. Some farmers replanted hoping that the rains would come but this crop too has faced the same fate.
According to the tobacco industry regulator, 70 412 farmers have registered to grow tobacco during the 2015-16 season, a decline of 20 percent from the 88 536 who had registered during the same period last year.
TIMB also said 9 025 new farmers have registered this season compared to 16 516 farmers during the same period last year — a 45 percent decline.
Communal farmers are topping the list of the registered growers with 33 722 having registered to grow the crop this season. The statistics show that 25 486 A1 farmers have registered as have 5 865 A2 farmers and 5 339 small-scale farmers.
Mashonaland West tops the list of registrations with 27 201 farmers, a decline from 30 785 last year.
Mashonaland Central is on second position with 24 993 farmers, a decline from the 26 226 last season. Mashonaland East has 9 015 farmers this season, down from the 15 255 last season.
Manicaland registered a decline of 43 percent with 8 771 farmers registering this season compared to 15 435 last season. Masvingo has 132 registered farmers this season compared to 376 last year, Matabeleland has five farmers while 13 farmers registered during the same period last year.
Midlands has 295 farmers this season compared to 446 last year. Tobacco is one of the major export earners in the country and supports millions of households.