Tobacco Season Opens

HARARE – The Tobacco marketing season opens Wednesday amid an estimated reduction of three million kilogrammes to be sold this year, figures by the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) show.\r\n

The ZTA estimates that 45 million kgs of tobacco will be sold this year down from 48 million kgs sold last year.

Information released by the ZTA indicates that tobacco production has decreased in the past 19 years from 133 million kgs in 1990 to 48 million kgs last year.

In 1995 a farmer could produce 2 661 kgs per hectare while the figure for 2008 went down to 1 007 kgs per hectare.

According to the ZTA, total hectrage planted in 1998 was 95 613 hectares and last year the figure was 48 000 hectares while this year the hectrage reduced to 40 000.

The figures compiled by ZTA shows the year 2000 as the peak year when the country harvested 236 million kgs of the golden leaf while the figure fell after the chaotic land reform programme by President Robert Mugabe to resettle landless black people.

Although the number of tobacco farmers increased from the year 2000 from 8 531, the number went up to 31 000 in 2005 but has since decreased to 8000 in 2009.

Zimbabwe tobacco farmers have been discouraged from growing tobacco in the past 10 years by the low prices offered at the auction floors.

This resulted in some farmers selling their tobacco to side marketers while others opted to grow other crop varieties.

A tobacco farmer who spoke to RadioVOP said he is anticipating a favourable price this year adding that the Zimbabwe Tobacco Marketing Board must push for good prices this season.

"Since now everyone is trading in US dollars we are hoping for a good price which will be an incentive to us," said the farmer.

Last year farmers spent weeks sleeping in the open hoping to get paid in the worthless Zimbabwean dollar only to be paid using agro-cheques which were not accepted by shops.

Tobacco used to be the country’s top forex earner before the country embarked on the land reform programme in the year 2000.