Zim tobacco output hit all-time high

HARARE - Eighteen years after the collapse of Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector in the wake of former President Robert Mugabe’s land grab programme, tobacco production has hit a record 207 million kg, with black farmers funded by private firms producing the highest volume ever produced in the post-land reform era.

From 5 000 mostly white farmers in 2000, there are now over 100 000 blacks growing tobacco, with sales shooting up 29 percent from 161 million kg  to 207m kg, while the total value of the crop increased 29 percent to $605,8 million from $470 million realised in the previous comparable period.

This comes as Zimbabwe is now Africa’s biggest tobacco producer, accounting for the biggest chunk of continent wide cigarette production. Zimbabwe itself consumes less than 5 percent of its tobacco output.

Tobacco, the country’s biggest exporter earner, has taken pole position in Africa buoyed by the surge in the number of farmers who have embraced cash-crop farming in the wake of the land reform programme.

According to the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, the tobacco industry is again booming. “Output reached nearly 180 million kg last year and the country had targeted to produce 200 million kilogrammes in 2018.

“We could reach between 220 million and 225 million kg as we expect contract sales to continue up to September,” Zimbabwe Tobacco Association CEO Rodney Ambrose told Farmers Voice.

Sales through the auction system have, however, slowed, he said. At peak, Zimbabwe produced 236 million kg in 1999 when government embarked on land reform to redistribute the finite resource from a few white farmers to the black majority.

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