Precious Manomano Herald Reporter
Tobacco remains a key crop for the country’s economy, contributing exports of more than US$1 billion.
In acknowledgement of the crop’s strategic importance to the economy, the Government is spearheading the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan that aims to transform the country’s tobacco value chain into a US$5 billion industry by 2025.
Speaking during a strategic planning workshop in Gweru, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Dr John Basera said tobacco contributed significantly to the country’s export earnings.
He said US$1 billion could be realised in exporting tobacco annually.
“Tobacco output marginally grew 1 percent to 213 million kg comparable to the 2020/21, whilst incomes/revenues to the farmers grew 10 percent to US$650 million,” said Dr Basera.
“Total export earnings from tobacco are projected to be US$1 billion.”
Zimbabwe is the sixth largest producer of tobacco in the world, accounting for seven percent of the world supply and is also the fifth largest tobacco exporter in the world.
Presently, Zimbabwe is value-adding and beneficiating just one percent of the total tobacco output grown in the country.
Statistics from Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) showed that this year farmers have earned US$650 million from the sale of 212 million kg of tobacco compared to 211million kg sold at US$589 million during the same period last year. The Tobacco marketing season officially closed on October 21.
TIMB also said the increase in tobacco sold as well as the value is the evidence of their efforts as an industry to establish a US$5 billion industry by 2025.
According to statistics by TIMB, the average price for tobacco was at US$3,06 per kg on the closing date.
Recently, TIMB spokesperson Mrs Chelesani Tsarwe said the marketing season progressed fairly well.
She said this year’s target was not met because of erratic rainfalls which affected the crop.
The industry had targeted a volume of 250 million kg for 2022 season, but this was seriously hampered by the erratic rainfall patterns.
Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union vice president Mr Edward Dune said erratic rainfall compromised the quality of leaf.
He said farmers should practice crop rotation to improve production and ensure viability.
‘’From the onset tobacco was heavily affected by climatic conditions and this seriously compromised the leaf quality. We advise farmers to take up horticulture and diversify their operations,” he said.
He warned farmers to buy inputs from reputable dealers to avoid buying fake drugs and seeds that were being peddled on the market.
Tobacco Farmers’ Union Trust president, Mr Victor Mariranyika, said climatic conditions had a serious impact on tobacco farming, especially to small holder farmers adding that contractors should pay farmers on time.
“We had a serious challenge with contractors who fail to pay farmers on time,” he said. “There are some farmers who did not receive their full amounts. The challenge need to be addressed so that our farmers perform well in this season.
“Yes, climatic conditions have affected production of the crop, but this season is different from last season since we were promised to receive good rains which is essential for the production of our crops.”
Tobacco is ranked as one of the most economically important non-food crops in Zimbabwe, earning millions of dollars annually.
The tobacco crop is important to the country as a foreign currency earner, contributing to improved livelihoods and employing a large number of poor rural population.
Earnings from tobacco have improved the livelihoods of both smallholder, medium and large-scale farmers and support the tobacco processing industry.
The growing of the crop contributes significantly to improving the livelihoods of many people, from the farmers in the main tobacco areas, to the merchants and to the processing done locally before the leaf is exported.