Zimbabwe’s tobacco production hit 207 million kg yesterday, the highest volume produced in post land reform, according to Tobacco and Industry Marketing Board.
Sales went up 29 percent from 161 million kg while the total value of the crop increased 29 percent to $605,8 million from $470 million realised in the previous comparable period.
Zimbabwe is the world’s fourth largest tobacco producer of flu cured tobacco.
“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 Mr Rodney Ambrose said.
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.
Prior to the land reform programme, tobacco farming was a preserve of large scale commercial farmers with negligible numbers of blacks.
“Smallholder black farmers were discouraged from producing tobacco because it was said to be too technically challenging and they were condemned to being labourers.
When they delivered their little crop to the floors, it was sold in what was then termed the “Chitungwiza” sale at punitive prices.
Before the land reform, about 2 000 large scale commercial farmers produced 200 million kilograms, an average of 200 tonnes per farmer. But with the land reform, the number of farmers has increased to about 100 000, representing a clear transfer of wealth from the elitist large scale farmers to a broader grower base constituting ordinary Zimbabweans.
Rural communities have been economically transformed, driven by good profits farmers are enjoying after selling their crop.
During the period under review, about 30,5 million kilograms were sold under the auction system while 85,1 million kg was sold under contract at an average price of $2,91 per kg.