The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe is targeting to record an output of around 200 million kilogrammes of tobacco in the upcoming selling season, raising optimism for increased foreign currency inflows that are expected to ease shortages.
This comes at a time when the country is grappling with foreign currency problems and foreign payment backlogs.
With tobacco export earnings expected to be above US$1, 2 billion this year, the opening of floors mid-March is expected to ease foreign currency shortages for the next six months.
A crop assessment survey was conducted by Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board and Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) in all tobacco-growing areas as from January 22 to February 2, 2018.
The report reads: “From a total hectarage of 104 397 hectares, we are expecting an average yield of around 2 000kg/ha from all the sampled farms.
“Reaping and curing of the irrigated crop is at an advanced stage with more than 80 percent of the crop having been harvested.
“Most of the cured leaf is lemon to orange in colour and of fair to good quality.
“The average yield from this planting is expected to be around 2 300 kg/ha and the dry land crop average output per hectare is 1 700kg.”
Most of this crop is now fully-grown.
Some golden leaves are ready for grading.
This is in preparation of the opening of the tobacco floors in the coming weeks.
The actual date is yet to be announced by Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister, Air Marshal (Retired) Perence Shiri after his meeting with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr John Mangudya. The crop was planted around mid-October to end of November last year and there were fears that the dry spell experienced recently could have destroyed it.
However, the crop is medium to heavy bodied in the commercial area. ln the A1 and communal farming areas, it is light to medium bodied.
Due to the poor distribution and late onset of rainfall, establishment of this crop was a big challenge to farmers who had to re-plant in some instances, hence the uneven growth of the crop.
Tobacco registrations have increased by 44 percent to 118 142 from 82 305 last year.
New growers increased by 125 percent to 33 605 from 14 952.
Over the past five years, tobacco has been the highest foreign currency earner for Zimbabwe, followed by gold.
Tobacco earned US$1, 3 billion last year. Meanwhile, analysts estimate tobacco export earnings to top US$1,4 billion by 2020, given the level of Government support.