Zimbabwe’s tobacco sales have dropped 8.5 percent to 188.5 million kilogrammes this year after drought in southern Africa affected production of the country’s top export earner, an official said on Thursday.
Andrew Matibiri, chief executive of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, said farmers were paid $555 million for tobacco sold to auctions and private companies, down from $654 million in 2014. The Tobacco selling season ended on Wednesday.
Private companies and auctions buy the crop from farmers and process it before exporting. Zimbabwe exports 90 percent of its tobacco, mostly to China, Europe and South Africa.
Last year, exports totalled $842 million, the bulk going to China, according to central bank data, more than the southern African country earned from platinum, gold or diamonds.
Fifteen years after Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector collapsed in the face of President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms, the tobacco industry is again growing, and black farmers funded by private firms last year produced a near record crop.
Tobacco production plunged to an all time low of 48 million kilograms in 2008 at the height of an economic crisis.