HARARE - Tobacco exports for the week ended March 4, 2016 increased by nine percent to $216,1 million from $209,2 million recorded prior year comparative, data from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) shows.
The figures show that 33,5 million kilogrammes (kg) were sold during the period at an average of $6,40 per kg, while 30,7 million kg were sold prior comparable period at an average of $6,80 per kg.
After buying 20,1 million kg of the golden leaf at $163,9 million for an average of $8,31 per kg, China dominated the exports followed by South Africa which purchased 4,3 million kg at $13,8 million for an average of $3,18 per kg.
Belgium purchased 1,6 million kg of the crop worth $8,7 million at an average of $5,27 followed by Indonesia which contributed $9,1 million to the earnings after buying 1,6 million kg at an average of $5,72 per kg.
The 2016 tobacco marketing season — set to open on March 30, 2016 — will also have fewer growers as the TIMB figures show that the number of registered growers are down 21 percent to
71 597 from 90 701 recorded during the same period last year.
The TIMB said new registrations had also decreased by 47 percent to 9 103 from 17 048 recorded prior period.
Of the total, communal farmers are 34 362 from 42 015 recorded prior period, Al farmers make up 25 801 on the back of 33 370 recorded during the same period last year, while A2 growers are
5 995 from 8 226.
Small-scale commercial farmers are 5 439 down from the 7 090 recorded for the same period last year.
While Mashonaland West still accounts for the highest number of growers, the number is down from the 31 732 growers who registered last year to 27 888.
The country last year failed to surpass 2014’s 14-year high of 213 million kg due to harsh weather conditions and lack of capital. The crop’s marketing and selling season, which traditionally starts mid-February, was delayed, and only started in March due to heavy rains and drought which resulted in low yields.
At its peak, in 2000, the country produced 237 million kg before hitting an all-time low of around 40 million kg in 2008.
Over the years, tobacco has become the preferred cash crop for most Zimbabwean farmers, particularly subsistence.
Agriculture experts say more Zimbabweans seem to be shifting from maize production to tobacco due to its better income generation.
The majority of the farmers are under contract farming and this has seen many foreign companies, enter into farming deals with local growers who cannot afford inputs and others costs.
In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe was the second-largest exporter of flue-cured tobacco — a high-quality, lucrative crop — but the sector’s fortunes reversed suddenly with the controversial land reform aimed at addressing colonial land imbalances.