BY JULIA NDLELA
TOBACCO output is expected to plummet by about 20% from last year’s production levels due to erratic rains this current farming season, industry authorities have warned.
Zimbabwe last year produced 202,2 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf valued at US$567 million but projections indicate a drop in output.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) manager Casper Mlambo said it has been a difficult season due to a long dry spell and erratic rains.
“Output could be the same as last season or down by 20%. Dry start to the season, plant death, late plantings as well unattractive crop development and later too much rain when it finally came and now dry again, affected leaf development. Nevertheless, there is the irrigated crop that managed to be established on time. It developed well,” Mlambo said.
“Contractors should pay farmers their proceeds on time both in the local Zimbabwean dollars and US dollars as per the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) pronouncement, so that they don’t spend days at the point of sale.”
According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), auction sales will open on March 30 and contract sales on March 31.
However, TIMB public relations officer Chelesani Moyo said the authority was satisfied with the state of the crop.
“According to the crop assessment done by TIMB and Agritex between 17 and 21 January 2022, the crop on all 837 farms visited across all regions generally looked good despite continuous rains, which were received,” Moyo said.
“This was the first round of assessment. The comprehensive report covering all the weeks the assessment was carried out is still being consolidated and will be shared with the key stakeholders once finalised.”
There has been a growing concern over side marketing.
“TIMB established an inspectorate division that ensures compliance with all regulations, investigates and deals with cases of side marketing and this unit is being expanded as we get into the 2022 tobacco marketing season,” Moyo said.
“The board is working towards criminalising side marketing with perpetrators paying huge fines and or imprisonment of up to six months. TIMB has been doing awareness campaigns since late last year and forging sustained partnerships with other agencies, like ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police), farmer unions and contracting companies to fight against side marketing.”
TIMB has also recruited people in farming areas to report side marketing through surveillance patrols with the aid of the Geographical Information Systems (GIS).
Zimbabwe is the largest tobacco producer in Africa and in 2018 tobacco accounted for about 10% of the country’s GDP.
The government is aiming to make it a US$5 billion industry by 2025.