Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
Zimbabwe has so far generated US$526 million from this year’s tobacco crop, whose output has surpassed the record set last year.
The figure is expected to rise as mop-up sales have begun.
This year, farmers delivered 758,18 million kilogrammes of tobacco, shattering last year’s record of 753 million kgs, as new farmers continue to grasp the concept of producing top quality tobacco.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri told The Herald that farmers have continued to produce quality tobacco as they amass more experience.
“For the year, we are now on 758,18 million kgs of tobacco,” he said. “This means we have set another record now and we are still getting more tobacco as some of the contract sales are still continuing.
“The tobacco delivered has generated US$526 million so far, compared to about US$737 million last year.”
Asked why tobacco deliveries had increased, but revenue declined, Dr Matibiri said this year’s crop was affected by the drought occasioned by the El Nino phenomenon which resulted in most crops suffering from moisture stress.
The bulk of the crops failed to recover, while some pulled through, but produced low yields.
Dr Matibiri said small-scale farmers, who are the A1 and communal area farmers, contributed 64 percent to this year’s tobacco output, with the balance coming from A2 and commercial farmers. Dr Matibiri believes that as farmers continue to grow tobacco, they are gaining valuable experience which, in turn, helps them to boost yields.
“I think farmers are now very experienced and know how to produce tobacco as required by the market,” he said. “Also they like the tobacco system because they get their payments quickly, so a lot of farmers are opting for tobacco growing.”
Tobacco growing, and even maize output, was subdued in the early years of the land redistribution programme as some beneficiaries didn’t have the resources to undertake crop growing on a commercial basis.
However, output for most crops has been on an upward trajectory with the 753 million kgs delivered last year surpassing the 1990 record of 239 million kgs.
Going forward, Dr Matibiri advised farmers to continue aiming to “produce what the market requires”.
“Our market is predominantly China, so they must produce what the Chinese like,” he said. “If they produce that, they get the quality.”
Dr Matibiri warned farmers to be wary of climate change, which he said was real.
“They must do whatever is possible, in other words, by doing things like establishing irrigation systems to support agricultural production (due to shifting rainfall patterns),” he said.
Meanwhile, Foreign currency inflow from cotton shot to US$85 million after the 2017-2018 farming season, from a low of US$4,5 million in 2015/16 season when Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme was introduced writes Patrick Chitumba.
While seed cotton deliveries for 2018/19 season are still in progress, the national crop is expected to decline by 50 percent because of drought.
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe managing director, Mr Pios Manamike, said there had been a marked increase in foreign currency earnings for the country from cotton since the introduction of the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme from the 2015/16 season to the 2018/19.
“The 2015/16 season saw the country earning US$4,5 million which increased to US$22,5 million in the 2016/17 agricultural season,” he said. “In the 2017/18 season, foreign currency inflows rose to US$85 million, an indication of the importance of the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme to the country.”
Mr Manamike said Cottco and national cotton production was also rising — a positive development linked to the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme.
“Seed cotton production during the 2015/16 season was 10 800 tonnes for Cottco and 28 000 tonnes for national cotton production. During the 2016/17 season Cottco recorded 54 000 tonnes and 74 000 tonnes for national cotton production. During the 2017/18 season Cottco recorded 127 500 tonnes whole national cotton production was 143 000 tonnes. Seed cotton deliveries for 2018/19 season are still in progress, however, the national crop is expected to decline by 50 percent because of drought,” he said.
Mr Manamike said employment levels peaked at 4 500 during the 2018/19 season, while US$80 million was generated from exports and $17 million saved through the use of local seed.
“The scheme is benefiting at least 400 000 households and touching the livelihoods of at least 200 000 people in support of the Government’s poverty alleviation strategy.”