/ 3 September 2010

Zim tobacco sales end with record crop

Zimbabwe’s tobacco sale closed on Friday with a record crop of 122-million kilograms having been sold, which officials attributed to the increase of small-scale farmers joining the industry.

Rodney Ambrose, CEO of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, said indications for the next cropping season were that the Southern African country would produce 140-million kilograms.

“The tobacco selling season comes to and end today [Friday] with 122-million kilograms of the leaf having been sold,” Ambrose said.

“If we get good weather without too much rain, just like we had this year, the country could produce between 140-million and 150-million kilograms.”

The association also said the significant increase could be attributed the fact that about 51 000 small-scale resettled farmers had helped produce the crop.

According to government estimates, tobacco accounts for more than 50% of agricultural exports — which translates to about 30% of Zimbabwe’s total exports.

At the beginning of the selling season, prices ranged between $3,50 and $4,50 per kilogram.

However, these declined to $1,90 and $2 per kilogram.

This year’s crop output has surpassed the initial 77-million kilograms anticipated at the start of the year.

Last year, Zimbabwe sold 56-million kilograms.

Over the years, tobacco production and earnings declined due to President Robert Mugabe’s controversial land reforms, which he said were meant to address colonial imbalances between white landowners and the black majority.

Production has also suffered as a result of successive years of drought.

Traditionally, tobacco sales start in April but this year they were brought forward to February at the request of small-scale growers, who said they needed the money from the sales to finance their next crop. — AFP