INDICATIONS by the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) that tobacco production hit 207 million kg — the highest volume produced post-land reform — speaks volumes about where we are headed as a nation whose economy is largely hinged on agriculture.
According to latest statistics from TIMB, sales went up 29 percent, from 161 million kg realised during the same period last year.
The value of the crop delivered also surged to $605,8 million from $470 million.
Zimbabwe had targeted to produce 200 million kg this year, but TIMB has since revised the figure upwards to between 220 million and 225 million as farmers were still delivering the crop, with contract sales expected to continue up to September.
Zimbabwe produced 236 million kg of tobacco in 1999 and that ranked the highest in the history of tobacco production in the country and by then only a handful of farmers, mainly the large-scale commercial farmers, produced the crop.
By then, there were 2000 commercial farmers in tobacco production.
That was a year before Government embarked on the Land Reform Programme to address skewed colonial land ownership.
The country has already surpassed the 200 million kg target after farmers delivered 207 million kg as of Tuesday and this is confirmation of the potential this crop has to facilitate a major economic take off.
It is also a confirmation that the decision by Government to support tobacco farmers with inputs under the Command Agriculture Scheme was well thought and a step in the right direction, especially at a time when efforts are underway to revamp the economy.
The target by President Mnangagwa and his administration is to achieve a middle-income economy by 2030.
Currently, Zimbabwe is the world’s fourth largest producer of flu-cured tobacco.
Putting tobacco production under the Command Agriculture Scheme definitely positions our nation for the number one spot in terms of productivity.
This will earn Zimbabwe more foreign currency.
Considering that about 100 000 indigenous farmers are now into tobacco production, the Command Agriculture Scheme will bring more economic benefits to them as well.
This will enable them to stand on their on in the long run.
That way Government would have managed to open the economy for the majority not just through land ownership but by boosting the capacity of the beneficiary of the resource.
The success in the tobacco industry is a clear signal to potential investors that Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector has great potential and with funding it ranks among the most lucrative in terms of returns.
It is time the private sector plays ball by supporting farmers as they feed them with basic raw materials.
Imagine if the private sector would fund production of other crops like soya beans, sun flower, cotton, macadamia nuts, tea, coffee, just to mention a few.
The result would be reduced imports and increased exports normalising our economics.
Equally, supporting farmers in cattle ranching would go a long way in ensuring that the nation is well fed inasmuch as it also earns the country foreign currency through exports of beef and other by-products.
That said, we applaud Government for reading the potential in tobacco farming and pledging to avail resources to farmers through Command Agriculture to ensure maximum output.
Statistics from the TIMB on tobacco production this year are also confirmation that Zimbabwe was never wrong when it embarked on the Land Reform Programme nearly two decades ago.
Repossessing the land from those underutilising it and giving the resource to Zimbabweans who deserve it would further boost productivity and the country’s foreign currency generation.