By Elita Chikwati
This year’s flue-cured tobacco deliveries have surpassed 220 million kilogrammes, an increase of 32 percent from volumes sold by farmers during the same period last year. Stakeholders in the industry have pegged this year’s volume at 235 million kg, registering the second highest production in the history of tobacco farming in this country.
The highest volume of 237 million kg was recorded in 2000.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) statistics have revealed that by yesterday, farmers had delivered 222 million kg valued at $647 million.
This is an increase from the 168 million kilogrammes worth $492 million that had been sold by tobacco growers during the same period last year.
Secretary for Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Engineer Ringson Chitsiko recently said Government recognised the socio-economic importance of tobacco and the right of farmers to grow the crop of their choice.
He said tobacco was a key crop impacting positively on the livelihoods of many farmers.
“This will be the second highest record production since tobacco farming started in this country.
“Furthermore, the crop accounted for 11 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2017, constituting 61 percent of all agriculture exports and 21 percent of total exports.
“As more farmers enter into tobacco growing and crop sizes grow, it remains important for growers to continue producing high yielding acceptable quality tobacco that is complaint in a sustainable manner.
“By adhering to these fundamentals, both growers and buyers of tobacco will enjoy sustainability and viability.”
Mr Chitsiko appealed to farmers to employ sustainable tobacco programmes that include good agricultural practices and using sustainable curing fuel.
Zimbabwe is the major flue-cured tobacco producer in Africa and occupies fifth position in the world as many communal farmers joined the lucrative farming sector following the land reform programme.
TIMB statistics show that during this season, 145 528 farmers were registered as tobacco growers.
This is an increase of 47 percent from the 98 795 who had registered to grow the crop same period last year.
Tobacco production has been on the increase since the land reform programme which saw many small holder farmers venturing into the once elite industry.
The crop has become popular with farmers because of high prices and an organised marketing system.
The availability of funding and the introduction of the foreign currency incentive have also motivated farmers.
Government has also come up with Tobacco Finance Facility for small holder farmers and starting next year, Government will include tobacco under Command Agriculture.