Kudakwashe Mhundwa Business Reporter
The country has so far earned US$214 million from the exportation of 52 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco to various parts of the world. According latest statistics provided by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), there has been a 55 percent increase in export earnings from the US$138 million earned during the same period last year when the country exported 28 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf.
The export growth comes despite a myriad of challenges experienced at the beginning of this year’s marketing season in March.
Chief among the challenges are low prices which have resulted in subdued delivery of tobacco to the auction floors as farmers apparently hold on to their crop in anticipation of an improvement in prices.
Government has, however, said it is clamping down on illegal buyers of tobacco who are reportedly behind product leakages and low prices of the golden leaf.
“We are aware of the leakages in the tobacco sector, we were made aware that there was inside marketing taking place where bogus people were buying tobacco directly from the farmers and then taking it onto the floor.
“Some corrupt systems have been taking place between illegal buyers and those operating the floors, allowing the buyers to deposit their tobacco there. That is inside marketing contributing to low prices but also leakages as well. The law is taking course because they are illegal buyers of tobacco,” Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube said on Monday.
According to TIMB, 38 countries have imported flue-cured tobacco from Zimbabwe compared to 36 last year. So far South Africa, has been the biggest importer of flue-cured tobacco purchasing about 20 million kg worth US$76 million at an average price of US$3,64. China is the second largest consumer procuring 8 million kg worth US$67,7 million at an average price of US$8,43.
China has over the years been recorded as Zimbabwe’s major consumer of the flue-cured tobacco.
Last year she spent $449,7 million importing 59,1 million kg of the golden leaf at an average price of US$7,61 a kg. In 2017, the Asian country imported 60,8 million kg of tobacco spending $479,3 million at an average price of $7,88 a kg.
The golden leaf is one of the country’s major foreign currency earner and the Government has recognised the sector’s contribution to the economy as evidenced by the incentives the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has availed to boost the crop’s output. Last year, the central bank increased the tobacco input finance facility from $28 million in 2017 to $70 million in 2018.
As at April 29, 2019 the number of registered tobacco growers stood at 43 574 marking a 13 percent increase from 38 458 that had registered the same period last year.