Zimbabwe’s tobacco output is expected to decline to 200 million kilogrammes this year owing to unfavourable weather conditions under which the crop was grown, the industry regulator has said.
Last year, the country produced an all-time high of 252 million kilogrammes of tobacco, earning at least a billion dollars in revenue.
The tobacco being sold this year was grown under grim weather conditions characterised by late rains and prolonged dry spells, particularly when the crop was almost ready for harvesting, prompting authorities to review projections downwards.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Monica Chinamasa, told New Ziana that prospects of a higher output this year compared to the previous one were slim due to drought.
“It is hard to tell how much tobacco we are expecting. We do not even want to guess. We are just praying that at least we get to 200 million kilogrammes (of tobacco),” she said.
Mrs Chinamasa described the 2018/19 cropping season as “challenging”.
“It has been a very difficult season, especially for small-scale growers; those farmers who are bringing tobacco are those with irrigation facilities like water bodies on their farms and have irrigation equipment.
“The rest of the dry land crop, with the way it has been hot, the heat damages tobacco. It has been a very bad season for us . . . ” she said.
Tobacco is the country’s second biggest foreign currency earner, after minerals, though the bulk of the crop is exported in its raw form with the exports generating in excess of US$1 billion annually.
Tobacco, once a preserve for white commercial farmers, is arguably one of the success stories of agriculture in the post land reform era.