MORE than US$300 million worth of tobacco has gone under the hammer at the country’s two auction floors since the start of the marketing season in February as the golden leaf increases its contribution to the economy.
Figures obtained from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board on Tuesday show that at least 104 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf traded at TSF and Zitac auction floors.
This represents an 81% increase on the 57, 4 million kgs sold during the same period last year.
The upward trend in tobacco output became apparent when sales breached the 100 million kg mark last Wednesday, nearly doubling last year’s tobacco deliveries.
This year’s target had initially been set at 77 million kg but was later revised to 100 million kgs earlier in the month after authorities anticipated deliveries to continue rising. On the downside, at least 115 728 bales of tobacco were rejected this year compared to 44 364 recorded last year. This was due to “dissatisfaction with the price being offered,” according to TIMB chief executive officer, Andrew Matibiri.
So promising is the tobacco sector that finance minister Tendai Biti recently projected an 18, 8% growth in agriculture buoyed by a production rebound of the golden leaf.
“Agricultural growth of 18,8% in 2010 is up on last year’s 14,9%. This is mainly driven by tobacco, up 67,3% from 55,6 million kgs in 2009 to 93 million kgs; maize, up 3% from 1,24 million tonnes to 1,33 million tonnes; and beef up 2% from 93 000 tonnes to 95 000 tonnes,” Biti said.
“Sustaining viable tobacco pricing in the liberalised marketing environment should offer scope for increased hectarage under tobacco production over the coming seasons.” Tobacco production has since the chaotic land reform exercise in 2000 plummeted as ownership wrangles between former white commercial farms and resettled indigenous farmers took centre stage.
Zimbabwe produced 236 million kg of the crop in 2000, becoming the world’s second largest exporter after Brazil.