Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
MANICALAND has registered a 12,8 percent increase in the area put under tobacco for the 2017-2018 summer cropping season, as farmers take advantage of the current wet spell prevailing in the country.
Statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board show that a total of 15 453 hectares had been put under the golden leaf as at December 20, compared to 13 699 hectares during the same period last season.
There was a rise in the rain-fed crop planted in the 2017-18 farming season to 13 845 hectares from 11 818ha in the same period last year.
Due to the availability of water this season, there was a slight decrease in the area put under irrigation to 1 608 hectares from 1 881ha in the prior period.
Across the country, the area put under tobacco has generally increased from 69 955ha last year to 75 008ha.
Mashonaland Central now has about 15 900ha under tobacco, while Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West have 29 479ha and 14 039ha respectively.
Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland South have the least number of hectares under the golden leaf at 89ha, 46ha and two hectares in that order.
According to the TIMB bulletin, the total number of registered tobacco growers has gone up 40 percent to 112 546 this season from 80 327 in the same period last season.
Manicaland registered a 66 percent rise in registrations from 10 453 in the 2016/17 season to 17 366 this season.
The province also registered the second biggest increase in new registrations of 221 percent, bringing the number of new tobacco farmers in the province to 4 842 from 1 492 during the same period last season.
During the review period, Mashonaland West had a total of 11 916 new growers, while Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East had 10 209 and 3 323 new growers respectively.
The number of communal farmers taking up tobacco farming has grown to 56 627 as at the review period.
There are 42 193 A1 farmers, 7 225 A2 farmers and 8196 501 small-scale growers who have registered to grow the golden leaf.
Previously a preserve of commercial farmers, tobacco has become an attractive source of livelihood for most of Zimbabwe’s communal and small-scale farmers.
Tobacco export earnings have been growing over the years from $772,6 million in 2014, rising to $855 million in 2015.
It further grew to $933,3 million last year and it is projected to grow to $980 million this year.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) recently reviewed upwards the export incentive from five percent to 12,5 percent to boost the 2018 marketing season.