Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
GLOBAL tobacco production is expected to drop by around 100 million kilogrammes, a development that will result in local prices going up during this marketing season, a senior Government official has said.
The 2016 tobacco marketing season will open on March 30, while contract sales will start the following day. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said tobacco production in other countries was affected by the poor rainfall.
“The global 100 million kilogramme reduction in production of the tobacco crop is expected to lead to the firming of prices during the 2016/17 marketing season.
“Government has taken a position to fully support tobacco production through financial institutions and contract farming arrangements,” he said.
Dr Made said commercial crops such as tobacco were facing production challenges that included shortening of growing periods caused by late rains, unpredictable rainfall patterns, mid-season drought and premature ends of rains.
“There is loss of confidence by dry land farmers experiencing poor germination, sub-optimal plant populations, poor crop quality and unviable yield levels,” he said.
The decline in tobacco production may push the prices upwards this selling season, farmers have also said. There has been a low production this season compared to the same period last year. Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board statistics show that last season, farmers planted 107 546 hectares of tobacco, while this season farmers planted 92 160 hectares.
According to TIMB, some major producers of tobacco were affected either by drought or floods.
TIMB said Brazil which used to produce around 550 million kg was affected by floods and produced around 400 million this season.
TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said there could be higher demand for the crop, considering that some of the competing countries do not have a big crop this season. Dr Matibiri said Brazil which was one of the major tobacco producers in the world had its crop affected by floods and this reduced the crop size.
“Tanzania has a smaller crop while Zambia and Malawi have not changed production. Zimbabwe still remains the major tobacco producer in the region,” he said.
Zimbabwe is expecting 160 million kg this season, a decline from last season’s production of 198 million kg.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe president, Mr Wonder Chabikwa said farmers were expecting firm prices this season basing on the economics of supply and demand. Tobacco Industry Development Support Institute executive director Mr Jeffrey Takawira said late rains affected local tobacco production.