The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe is likely to surpass the 2017 /18 targeted tobacco output of 200 million kilogrammes, given that farmers have already delivered 190 million kgs, with over 50 days to go before the marketing season officially closes.
The remarkable growth in deliveries beat last marketing season’s 190 million kgs realised despite a serious mid-season drought that threatened to wipe out the crop.
It is the third time the country is expected to beat the 200 million kgs target since 2010 but is still way below the 325 million kgs that was recorded in 1965.
Fresh statistics indicate that considering the increase in tobacco output, earnings have also been rising, with farmers — who have increased from 98 705 in the past year to 144 905 — pocketing more than US$551 million in the first 56 days of the marketing season, from US$440 million last year.
Total revenues improved by US$110 million due to the improved quality of tobacco this year.
The average price has increased slightly to US$2,91 from US$2,90 last year.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) public relations manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo said, “There’s a big likelihood that the country may surpass the 200 million kgs targeted by Treasury given the amount of tobacco that has been delivered to the auction floors.
“We are surprised with the statistics given dry climatic conditions that we have experienced mid-season. The second half rains during end of January changed the course of the season for most tobacco farmers who were heading for total disaster.
“It’s also shocking that the last time we surpassed that mark was during the infamous El Nino phenomenon experienced during the 2015 /2016 summer cropping season,” said Mr Moyo.
He said the number of farmers who committed themselves to the crop shows that the appetite to grow the golden leaf is high.
Contract farming accounts for more than 75 percent of deliveries, which puts pressure on the tobacco auction system.
Of the 190 million kgs delivered to the auction floors so far, over 161 million kgs were under contract farming. TSF handled 18,8 million kgs, Boka received 4,9 million kgs and Premium auctioned 4,4 million kgs from the 28,3 million kgs that went under the hammer.
As far as tobacco export earnings are concerned, Zimbabwe has so far earned US$153,6 million from 36,1 million kgs of tobacco exported mainly to Indonesia and China since the beginning of 2018.
So far, tobacco has been exported to 47 countries. China accounted for over 7,8 million kgs valued at US$50,1 million while Indonesia bought 4,6million kgs valued at US$21,4 million.
With an estimated 350 million smokers, China has been annually spending over US$200 million on Zimbabwean tobacco, which is regarded among the best in the world.
Belgium has this year bought 3,9 million kgs valued at US$11,7 million at an average price of US$2,99 per kg. South Africa has so far bought 4 million kgs worth US$10 million at an average price of US$2,50 per kg; followed by Russia , which has spent US$5,9 million on 1,8 million kgs; while Sudan bought 1,1 million kgs worth US$5,1 million.
Other buyers are from Bulgaria, Vietnam, Hong Kong, France, Netherlands, Germany, Nigeria, Taiwan, Spain and Tanzania.
However, the tobacco export proceeds are US$71 million behind last year’s exports for the same period.
During the same period last years tobacco exports generated US$231,7 million from a total of 49,7 million kgs. Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s biggest foreign currency earner, followed by gold.
Last year, tobacco exports topped US$900 million, which was a marginal decrease from the US$933 million recorded during the previous season. Government is targeting to reach 215 million kgs of tobacco every year.