Zimbabwe eyes 230 million kg tobacco yield as selling season opens

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s tobacco selling season officially opened Wednesday with the country’s yield expected to rise to 230 million kg for this year.

The high expectations, according to Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chairman Patrick Devenish, are inspired by the good rains received during the cropping season and the increase in farmers who took up the lucrative crop.

In 2022, the country’s tobacco yield stood at 212 million kg with 98 percent of it shipped outside as export.

Speaking at the official opening of the selling season in Harare Wednesday, Devenish said the sector also registered 3 283 new growers during the cropping season, something he described as a sign of increasing appetite to grow the crop.

“For every good thing, there seems to be a pullback force and for us this season, it was sporadic cases of hail and early flowering of some tobacco plants.

“Our crop assessment reveals that we can produce 230 million kg of tobacco this season,” he said.

To off -take the expected tobacco, Devenish said the board licensed two auction floors namely Tobacco Sales Floor and Premier Auction Tobacco Floor.

Sales will be conducted in Harare as well as five decentralised centres which are Karoi, Mvurwi, Bindura, Marondera and Rusape.

Officially launching the tobacco sales, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga bemoaned the export of almost all locally produced tobacco in its raw form.

“It is disheartening that we export 98 percent of our tobacco in semi-processed form, which means we are literally exporting jobs and value.

“I am however pleased to note that the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is in advanced discussions for value addition of our tobacco with local and foreign investors,” he said.

Chiwenga said the government noted the concerns that have been raised about growers facing viability challenges as a result of increased production costs.

“To alleviate that, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has consequently increased the foreign currency retention threshold from 75 percent to 85 percent,” he said.

He implored TIMB to ensure that farmers get value for their tobacco.

“As the 2023 tobacco marketing season takes off, the TIMB should enhance transparency and fair tobacco sales at contract and auction floors, including analysing, recommending, improving and facilitating equitable, transparent and profitable sharing of expenses and profits throughout the tobacco value chain.

“As government, our eyes are transfixed on the role of tobacco in uplifting the livelihoods of Zimbabweans,” said VP Chiwenga.

The first bale of tobacco fetched $4.35 per kilogramme while the lowest price paid for the crop was $1.85.

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