‘Golden leaf’ growers increase

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    Harare – The number of registered  tobacco farmers for the 2018 – 19 season has increased by 44% to 169,875 from the 118,048 who had thus far registered last year in a move that is meant to significantly boost production.

    Production has generally been on the increase due to sustained sector support through contractors. Contract produce account for 85% of total produce in Zimbabwe. This network of  international financiers have ensured adequate funding for the sector and also facilitated in production to ensure good yields and quality of crop.

    In addition, a combination of increased hectarage and access to inputs under the Government programmes, Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Scheme is envisioned to further boost production levels.

    Figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) as at 8 February 2019, show that of the total, 41,185 are new growers, a 23% increase  from 33,574 registered in the same period last year.

    The figures show that communal farmers who account for the largest number of registered growers presently stand at 96,001 with A1 growers accounting for 55,609 of the registered growers while A2 and small-scale farmer commercial farmers make up 9,678 and 8,578 growers respectively.

    On provincial basis, Mashonaland West accounts for most of the farmers with 38,514 growers, followed by Mashonaland Central with 38,193 farmers.

    Manicaland comes up with 11,279 growers, while 7,484 are from Mashonaland East. Midlands and Masvingo accounts for 448 and 83 growers respectively.

    Tobacco has earned a strategic position in the economy because of its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product and foreign currency earnings.

    Tobacco earnings from the 2017 selling season raked in $1.2 billion in exports with gold coming in second. Last year, the country earned $892 million from tobacco exports, coming in second behind export earnings from gold.

    In 2018 tobacco production reached 252 million kilogrammes of flue cured tobacco which was record high.

    The previous record was 237 million kg which was achieved in 2000.

    The projected growth in the number of new farmers is likely to push the national produce further up following a record produce in 2018.

    However, an expected drought named El Nino is the expected yet again to visit Zimbabwe and Southern Africa region. It’s impact will be a reduced crop although some players have highlighted that so far the crop is looking good.

    In 2017 late rains after the lead moisture content which drastically reduced lead quality and consequently average prices.

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