Tobacco exports surge 40pc, as planting of season’s crop stutters
Edgar Vhera Agriculture Specialist Writer
A MISHMASH of factors such as growing export volumes and value addition on the backdrop of firming commodity prices has laid the foundation for a 40 percent increase in the value of tobacco exports, which saw earnings growing from US$801 million in 2022 to US$1, 1 billion this year.
Statistics availed by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) weekly report 47 dated November 24 show that tobacco valued at US$801 308 928 had been exported by November 24 in 2022 against US$1 123 475 676 in the comparable period this year.
The volume rose 27 percent from 168 668 997 to 214 489 075 kilogrammes.
The average price increased 10 percent from US$4, 75 per kilogramme to US$5, 24. The Far East market was the largest consumer of the country’s tobacco accounting for 47 percent of the volumes while in value terms it contributed 64 percent as a result of the highest average price of US$7, 14 per kilogramme.
Meanwhile, farmers continue to gaze into the skies in anticipation of rains, which have delayed the start of rainfed tobacco planting under the ‘sima dhinda’ practice.
The same TIMB report shows that there was a 14 percent decline in planted area as at November 24 this year in comparison to the same period last year, although more planting activities are expected after the first effective rains are received nationwide.
The report indicated that the area planted under both dryland and irrigated tobacco dropped from 45 696 hectares in 2022 to 39 122 in the comparable period this year.
Mashonaland West had the largest drop of 24 percent in planted area followed by Mashonaland East with 20 and Manicaland at 10 while only Mashonaland Central and Midlands provinces had positive gains of seven and 100 percent respectively.
Overall, the hectarage under dryland tobacco dropped 27 percent from 28 533 to 20 859 hectares.
Area under irrigation rose six percent from 17 164 to 18 262 hectares as farmers try to counteract the effects of the predicted harsh weather pattern.
TIMB Public Affairs Officer Mrs Chelesani Tsarwe said the decline in this year’s tobacco hectarage could be attributed to the changing rainfall patterns.
“In contrast to the previous year when the country experienced early rains, allowing for a larger area to be planted earlier in the season, this year’s late rains have delayed planting and resulted in a smaller planted area. The shift in rainfall patterns has had a significant impact on the timing and extent of tobacco cultivation,” she said.
Tobacco Farmers Union Trust (TFUT) president Mr Victor Mariranyika said a combination of factors from natural to economic were at play.
“Last year the rainfall pattern was more favourable to tobacco production as compared to the current season. Some contacting companies failed to comply with TIMB regulations and still owe farmers substantial amounts of money. The selling and buying model was skewed against farmers, as it was insensitive to the production cost resulting in farmers losing out with the majority failing to pay back their loans,” he said.
He said although the country managed to achieve close to 300 million kilogrammes of tobacco there was nothing for farmers to show for it financially.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) Chief Executive Officer Mr Rodney Ambrose concurred saying in the past season planting started much earlier than this time, thanks to the ideal weather patterns experienced and farmers’ better state of preparedness.
“This season, the rains have been delayed and some farmers will be planting slightly less to mitigate losses that may be experienced as a result of a drier season. There are also declining sustainable wood sources for curing tobacco, so some farmers may be cutting back on hectarage planted,” he said.