13 000+ new tobacco farmers register
AT least 13 540 farmers have registered to grow tobacco for the first time during the 2016/17 cropping season, recent statistics from the industry regulator show.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said as at last Friday, a total of 71 438 farmers had registered to grow and market the crop this season.
Of the total number of registered tobacco growers, at least 33 494 are communal farmers. Since the country started using multiple foreign currencies in 2009, the tobacco industry has been one of the fastest to recover from the economic meltdown of the past decade.
Many communal farmers have been abandoning other cash crops such as cotton for tobacco due to the favourable prices. The TIMB also said at least 14 600 hectares have been put under tobacco as at the end of last week, down from 15 308 hectares planted during the comparable period last year.
Of the 14 600 hectares of planted tobacco, at least 1 104 hectares were put under dry land tobacco. The TIMB said farmers who have planted irrigated tobacco are from Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, and Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Manicaland provinces.
Some farmers in Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West provinces have also started planting dry land tobacco. The TIMB also said at least 123,2 million kilogrammes of tobacco worth $670,9 million had been exported at an average price of $5,45 per kg. The bulk of the tobacco was exported to China while other countries buying Zimbabwe’s Virginia tobacco include among others, South Africa, Belgium, United Arab Emirates and Russia.
At least 202 million kg of tobacco were sold during the 2016 marketing season, surpassing the 190 million kg target that the industry regulator had set. The past cropping season was characterised by drought which resulted in farmers planting late, while the crop was also heavily affected by dry spells. Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s major agricultural exports. — New Ziana