Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
The tobacco industry is expecting about 222 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco next season. Last season, farmers produced 216 million kilogrammes up from the 165 million kilogrammes that had been produced in 2013.
Presenting the 2015 National Budget recently, Finance Minister, Cde Patrick Chinamasa said the industry was targeting an increase in tobacco production.
“With a targeted overall hectarage of 90 000 hectares under the crop, tobacco output is projected at 222 million kilogrammes.
“In support of this planned output, the respective seed sales of about 1 032 869 kilogrammes were made by the cut-off date of September 5 2014,” he said.
Cde Chinamasa attributed the surge in tobacco output to a 10,3 percent in the increase in the number of growers, from 78 756 in 2013 to 86 900 in 2014.
“Correspondingly, hectarage rose by 21, 2 percent from 88 626 hectares in 2013 to 107 371 hectares in 2014.
“In terms of tobacco sales, a total of $684, 87 million was realised in 2014 compared to $610,31 million achieved in 2013, at an average price of $3, 17 per kg compared to $3, 68 per kg in 2013,” he said.
He however raised concern over the impact of tobacco production on the environment.
“As we increase tobacco production, it is equally important that our farmers embrace environmental friendly methods of curing tobacco, desisting from practices that perpetuate deforestation and environmental degradation.
“In this regard, Government will be working closely with the tobacco industry to embrace access to alternative energy sources, as well as development of woodlots around tobacco producing areas,” he said.
Farmers have over the past years been shifting from producing crops such as cotton, maize and wheat in preference of tobacco which is offering viable prices.
Maize farmers have experienced challenges getting their money from the Grain Marketing Board while cotton farmers feel they are being ripped off by buyers who offer low prices.
Most of the tobacco growers are producing the crop under contract system where they are guaranteed of inputs on time and favourable prices at the end of the season.