Financing of the 2009-2010 tobacco season has been unstable, with prospective financers still to make a full commitment.
This is likely to affect the anticipated increase in production which has far reaching effects on the entire economy.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president Kevin Cooke confirmed that the planting of the dry land crop started last week.
“Basically planting of the dry land crop went ahead well but there are problems with the unavailability of inputs and finance for the production of the crop,” said Cooke. “There is a large number of tobacco farmers who have not received inputs on time and this may affect ultimate production.”
A rebound of tobacco production has continuously been hampered by unavailability of inputs.
“We are aware that the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) is going to support farmers towards production of the crop and we are hoping that this goes well,” added Cooke.
Apart from TIMB, there are other contractors who have supplied inputs to tobacco farmers.
Last season, 57 million kgs of tobacco were produced and the industry was targeting 65 million kgs for the 2010 selling season though some players have put the figure at 80 million kgs.
Contractors accounted for the greater part of tobacco which was produced last year and it is expected to be the case this season.
Cooke said with proper planning it was possible to increase production beyond the targeted 65 million kgs.
Players in the tobacco industry have been arguing that it is an 18 month crop and planning should be done well in advance to avoid hasty preparations which would have a bearing on production.
There has been an increase in the number of tobacco farmers compared to last season mainly because of the improved returns at the auction floors where producers were paid in hard currency.
Tobacco, at its peak production levels, accounted for more than half of total agricultural exports and this translated to 30% of the country’s total exports.
Tobacco production peaked at 260 million kgs in 1998, which is almost five times as much as what the industry is producing 11 years later.
At its peak, the crop earned the country around US$270 million and it accounted for 10% of the country’s gross domestic product.