At least 86 751 farmers have registered to grow tobacco during the 2014/15 season, up from 83 668 that had applied by the corresponding period in 2013, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has said.
At least 40 359 of the farmers that want to grow the crop are communal based, translating to 46 percent of the growers that have registered.
Small-scale commercial farmers account for the least number at 6 825, representing 8 percent of the total, while 510 have registered for the first time.
Mashonaland West province leads in growers that registered with 30 280, whilst Matabeleland has the least number with 12 growers.
Growers registering for the first time stand at 16 067 compared to 25 728 who registered in the corresponding period last year.
Communal farmers constitute 9 886 of the total number of new tobacco growers for 2014/15 season.
During the 2013 selling season, a total of 106 455 farmers sold tobacco at the auction floors.
Production of the golden leaf in Zimbabwe surged at the turn of the millennium with farmers in communal areas catching up to growing the crop.
At least 217 million kilogrammes of tobacco were produced in 2013, raking in $700 million for the first time in 14 years as the rebound in output continues, driven by small-scale farmers, good rains, organised marketing and experience that producers have acquired to date.
The last time output surpassed 210 million kg was in 2000 when it reached 227, 7 million kg.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s major agricultural exports, accounting for 10, 7 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
Export destinations for Zimbabwean tobacco include Belgium, United Arab Emirates, China, Sudan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand, Montenegro and Russia.
Experts have, however, called for value addition of tobacco, arguing that revenue would increase by tenfold. — New Ziana.