THE country’s tobacco output is set to be drastically reduced next year because of government’s failure to devise viable policies to revive the sector, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association projects officer, Casper Mlambo, said the cost of producing tobacco had soared beyond the reach of many and would affect next year’s crop.
“The cost of growing one hectare of tobacco has ballooned to $5 million,” said Mlambo.
“This has been caused by the massive price hikes in the cost of inputs. Although there was a 100% increase in the price of fertilisers, it is still not available and farmers will be forced to import it from other countries alongside other inputs such as chemicals,” he said.
The country’s auction floors have been dogged by marketing problems due to shortages of coal and diesel.
“Farmers are still being asked to bring their own coal by road from Wankie and with the current shortages of diesel this is not feasible,” Mlambo said.
This week’s figures show that only 1,75 million kg have been sold compared to the seasonal average of 4,42 million kg.
Last year during the same period 4 million kgs had been sold.
In terms of bales, 20 339 have been sold, which is well below the annual average of 51 000 and half last year’s figure of 43 000.
Mlambo said farmers were also not happy with the exchange rate which they said did not reflect the true value of the Zimbabwe dollar.
“Farmers are being paid at an exchange rate of US$1 to $824. An exchange rate of US$1: $1 500 would have been better for the farmers,” said Mlambo. On the parallel market the exchange rate is as high as US$1:$2 000.
The farmers also do not handle any foreign currency as it is the preserve of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which pays farmers in local currency.