HARARE - The number of registered tobacco farmers for the 2016/17 season has increased by 10 910 to 81 172, as more growers are being lured by good fortunes from the golden leaf, official data shows.
Figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) indicated that communal farmers presently stand at 38 529 with A1 growers accounting for
31 001 of this season’s farmers while A2 and small-scale commercial farmers make up 6 228 and 5 414 growers respectively.
Of the total registered growers, Mashonaland West accounts for most of the farmers with 17 645 growers, followed by Mashonaland Central with 14 001 farmers.
A total of 3 619 growers are from Manicaland while 3 109 from Mashonaland East.
Midlands has 120 registered growers followed by Masvingo Province which accounted for the remaining 35 growers.
Overall, Mashonaland West growers rose 14 percent from 27 170 to 31 010 this season.
Mashonaland Central had a 19 percent increase in growers to 29 645 from 24 880, with Manicaland seeing a 20 percent rise from 8 767 to 10 550 and Mashonaland East posting an eight percent rise in registered growers to 9 734 from 9 004 prior comparable period.
The only provinces that recorded decreases in registered growers are Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland which saw registered growers decrease from five during the 2015/16 season to three for the 2017/17 season.
TIMB also highlighted that Zimbabweans migrating to the cash crop have successively been increasing with most of the new tobacco farmers being communal growers.
With a 58 percent improvement in new growers, Mashonaland Central had 5 862 new growers up from 3 712 closely followed by Mashonaland West which recorded 5 455 first-time growers for the period under review 54 percent higher than the 3 549 recorded for the same period last year.
However, Manicaland posted the highest grower improvement after new tobacco farmers rose 76 percent to 1 511 from 859 prior season.
With 1 359 new farmers, Mashonaland East recorded a 78 percent improvement from 765 who registered prior season.
Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland all recorded negative growth in the period under review with the worst performer being Matabeleland which only registered two new growers.
While it is still too early to determine when the tobacco marketing season will open and possible projections, market watchers expect the floors to open their doors end of February.
In 2015, 205,5 million kg of tobacco were sold, earning $651,9 million, the biggest sale in 13 years.
Currently, Zimbabwe has already breached this target inching towards the $750 million mark.