ZIMBABWE – The value of tobacco exports has increased by 7,2 percent to $182,9 million in January this year from $181,3 million recorded prior comparable period, figures from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) show.

According to TIMB data, 25,2 million kilogrammes (kg) of the golden leaf was sold during the period under review compared to 23,3 million kg sold during the same period in 2015.

China dominated the sales accounting for $162,2 million of the total export earnings after buying 19,8 million kg at $8,16 per kg followed by Belgium which purchased 6,6 million kg worth $1,3 million at $4,8 per kg.

In 2015, China dominated the earnings after having contributed $166,5 million during the same period for 19,1 million kg purchased at $8,72 per kg.

Indonesia came third after purchasing 895 357kg of tobacco valued at $4,6 million at $5,21 per kg, followed by South Africa and Russia.

Meanwhile, the Timb said the number of tobacco growers for the 2015/16 tobacco season had dropped by 21 percent to 70 462 compared to the 88 640 growers registered during the same period last year.

The tobacco board also noted a 45 percent decline in new growers with only 9 039 having registered by the end of the week under review compared to the 16 540 new growers recorded during the same period last season.

At the end of the week, the total number of growers showed a 21 percent decrease on prior comparable period as 88 640 farmers had registered for the 2015/16 season.

Of these farmers, 33 735 were communal tobacco farmers, 25 500 A1, 5 880 A2 and 5 347 being small-scale farmers.

In 2014, more than 105 000 farmers took up tobacco production earning the country at least $660 million.

Zimbabwe missed its 2015 flue cured tobacco target after selling 180 million kg in 2015 compared to a 196 million kg output in 2014.

Experts have said the country is likely to miss this target this coming season as well, given the low grower figures being recorded.

The country raked in about $680 million from tobacco sales in 2014 and is in need of revenue from the cash crop, which contributes over 10 percent to its gross domestic product.

At its peak, in 2000, the country produced 237 million kg before hitting an all-time low of around 40 million kg in 2008.

In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe was the second-largest exporter of flue-cured tobacco — a high-quality, lucrative crop — but the sector’s fortunes reversed suddenly after the controversial land reform aimed at addressing colonial land imbalances.

The upheaval devastated the country’s agricultural sector for over a decade.

However, steady gains by black Zimbabwean tobacco farmers have raised production of the crop closer to pre-reform levels and may help salvage the country’s struggling export sector.

Zimbabwe’s tobacco production, which is one of the largest in Africa, is however plagued with several challenges including inadequate electricity capacity to cure tobacco leaves, which has led to wanton deforestation for firewood.

February 3, 2016; https://www.dailynews.co.zw/articles/2016/02/03/tobacco-exports-earnings-up