Tobacco exports top $720m

HARARE - Zimbabwe's tobacco export earnings have increased to over $721,3 million in the eight months to November, buoyed by higher prices and demand from China.

Statistics released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) showed that the latest figure increased from $692,6 million recorded in the same period last year.

Tobacco is the country’s single largest export commodity, ahead of platinum and gold.

According to the tobacco regulator, cigarette makers in China, the world’s biggest market and grower of tobacco,  bought 50,4 million kg of the golden leaf valued at $410,4 million.

This was after the country had exported 131 million kg to various countries around the world in the period under review compared to 124 million kg sold in the same period last year.

Other major buyers of Zimbabwe’s flue-cured tobacco, which is used as flavouring in cigarettes, are Belgium, South Africa and Indonesia.

Chinese buyers paid an average of $8,13 per kg of tobacco, more than double what the other major buyers offered. However, this year’s overall average price at $5,50 was lower than last year’s $5,58 average.

China has become the largest investor in Zimbabwe, which has been shunned by the West over its human rights record and is struggling to emerge from a deep 1999-2008 recession that forced the government to ditch its own currency in 2009.

The latest data also comes at a time when the United States (US) and Mauritius have dumped importing Zimbabwean tobacco due to an

increase in human rights abuse.

The two countries, which were among Zimbabwe’s top 10 tobacco export destinations and imported a combined total of $11,7 million of the golden leaf in 2015, were conspicuous by their absence on this year’s list of top 40 importing countries.

Economic experts say the withdrawal of deep-pocketed countries such as the US and Mauritius from buying Zimbabwean products is a heavy blow to the country’s ailing economy, which exports 90 percent of its tobacco and is in dire need of fresh capital to offset a biting liquidity and cash crisis.

Meanwhile, TIMB said the number of registered tobacco growers for the period under review stood at 72 575 with 13 586 of them being new growers.

Mashonaland Central maintained its position as the country’s major tobacco farming region after recording 12 607 communal, 10 764 A1, 1 713 A2 and 62 small-scale commercial farmers for the coming tobacco farming season.

Matabeleland remained the region with the lowest number of growers after registering a paltry three A2 farmer registrations with the TIMB.

TIMB’s crop report summary shows that 12 866 hectares (ha) of irrigated land and 2 183ha of dry land have been planted bringing the country’s total planted area to 15 049ha.

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