Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Zimbabwe has surpassed the 120 million kilogramme mark for flue-cured tobacco sales despite poor rains that affected production.

Late rains, dry spells and floods affected production this season.

This is the sixth time that the country has scored such a feat.

Latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board have shown that 123,8 million kg of tobacco worth $363 million have been sold since the opening of the auction floors in March.

The industry expects about 165 million kg this season.

Production fell significantly between 2003 and 2009.

In 2003, tobacco production fell to 82 million kg with the lowest production recorded in 2008 when farmers produced 49 million kilogrammes.

Since 2010, production started improving, with farmers producing 124 million kg of flue-cured tobacco.

Most farmers delayed planting and TIMB had to shift opening dates from the traditional mid-February to early March since the season was late.

The statistics show that 35,9 million kg of flue-cured tobacco worth $89,1 million have been sold through the auction floors, while the remaining 87,8 million kg worth $274 million were sold through the contract floors.

There has been an increase in the number of farmers growing tobacco and most of them have notably improved their livelihoods.

Stakeholders are concerned with the quality of the crop produced by some farmers, especially those who are still new in the industry.

TIMB chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa confirmed that every season more than 15 000 farmers were shifting to tobacco production, but lacked technical expertise especially on curing and presentation of the crop for sale.

“Most farmers have captured the art of growing tobacco, but still have challenges in curing and presenting the crop for sale and this had an effect on the price of the end product,” she said.

Tobacco Industry Development Support Institute executive director Mr Jeffrey Takawira challenged farmers’ unions to educate farmers on tobacco production.