ZIMBABWE tobacco sales have hit a record 237.1 million kilograms according to official data presented last Friday by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s highest foreign currency earner followed by gold. In 2017 tobacco exports topped $900m, which was a marginal decrease from $933m from the previous season.
The high increase in tobacco sales are a result of China’s demands for the product. Zimbabwe and China’s business relationship has without doubt improved the amount of sales in this sector which in 2008 struck the rock-bottom.
Most Zimbabwean farmers who benefitted from the land reform programme fostered by former President Robert Mugabe grow tobacco.
As of Thursday, a total 237 million kilogrammes of tobacco valued at $692.1m had been sold, beating the all-time high of 236 million kilogrammes sold in 2001.
With the tobacco selling season still left with just above a week to close, output is now expected to go above the 240 million level, well above last year’s marketing season’s 190 million kgs that were sold.
Crop production had come down significantly after the southern African country embarked on a land reform programme that saw some experienced farmers getting displaced from the farms.
Newly resettled farmers have, however, gained experience over the years and have been growing output to the current record-breaking levels.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) was expecting a tobacco crop of approximately 200 million kilograms this year despite late and heavy rains and crop pest outbreaks which damaged crops.
The quality of the crop was surprisingly good with the average price per kg amounting to $2.92 up from $2.79 in the 2016/17 season.
Zimbabwe exports its tobacco to more than 47 countries including South Africa.
The country on 30 July will hold presidential elections. Zimbabweans remain hopeful that the post-election period will unlock business opportunities that will give them foreign funding and solve the cash crisis which has gone on for years.