At least 47.86 million kilograms of tobacco worth US$108.54 million have been sold so far since the selling season opened, statistics from the industry regulator show.
Previously a preserve of white commercial farmers, tobacco has become an attractive source of livelihood for many small-scale and communal black farmers. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said sales had doubled from 22.97 million kgs recorded in the same period last year.
The average price at both auction and contract floors stood at 2.27 USD per kg, which is 29.48 percent higher than in the 2019 marketing season.
The crop has so far fetched the highest price of 6.60 USD per kg, while the lowest has been 0.10 US cents per kg.
Rejected bales increased by 2.28 percent to 22 416 from 21 916 recorded in the same period last year. Tobacco production has been on the increase in the past few years, with farmers selling a record 259 million kg last year, up from 253 million kg in 2018.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second biggest earner of foreign exchange after gold. Last year, it generated US$747 million in exports mainly to China and Europe, according to central bank data. This year, tobacco was grown under difficult weather characterised by delayed rains and prolonged drought.
Traditionally, the opening of tobacco auction floors leads to improved foreign exchange inflows in the country, with buyers scrambling to purchase the crop.