ZIMBABWE - Zimbabwe has missed the 220 million kilogrammes (kg) tobacco target set for this year largely due to bad weather in the early stages of the growing season.
Statistics from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) reveal that by end of the trading season yesterday, the country had sold a total of 186 million kg of the golden leaf earning $548 million compared to 204 million kg sold last year for $649 million.
Total flue-cured tobacco output last year amounted to 216 million kg compared to 165,85 million kg in 2013. Of the 186 million kg sold so far, eight percent of the golden leaf fell under rejected bales, compared to the five percent rejected in 2014.
China continued to lead the export market, after having purchased 20,1 million kg at $171,2 million followed by South Africa which bought 7,2 million kg with a value of $21,4 million.
Farmers who failed to deliver their crop to the floors however get another chance to deliver during the moping period, which is traditionally held in August.
TIMB chief executive, Andrew Matibiri, recently told the businessdaily that Zimbabwe was going to miss its 220 million kg tobacco target for 2015 by 15 percent as the crop was affected by heavy rains and drought which resulted in low yields.
“We are now expecting around 190-195 million kg because this has not been a very good season.
“The rains were not good for the crop so we are going to be down by about 15 percent from last year,” he said then.
This development will dent revival of the country’s agriculture sector, targeted at boosting production of key crops such as tobacco.
The crop’s marketing and selling season, which traditionally starts mid-February, was delayed, and only started in March and is set to close today.
During the peak of the selling season, tobacco growers delivered around 8 000 and 10 000 bales per day but now auction floors are receiving 3 000 bales per day.
At its peak, in 2000, the country produced 237 million kg before hitting an all-time low of around 40 million kg in 2008. Over the years, tobacco farming has become the preferred cash crop for most Zimbabwean farmers, particularly subsistence.
Agriculture experts say more Zimbabweans seem to be shifting from maize production to tobacco due to its better income generation.
The majority of the farmers are under contract farming and this has seen many foreign companies, enter into farming deals with local growers who cannot afford inputs and others costs.
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 with the controversial land reform aimed at addressing colonial land imbalances.