At least 34.21 million kilograms of tobacco worth US$77.11 million have been sold so far since the start of tobacco selling season, statistics from the industry regulator show. Previously, a preserve of white commercial farmers, tobacco is fast becoming an attractive source of livelihood for many small-scale and communal black farmers.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said sales had increased significantly by 148.19% from 13.78 million kgs recorded in the previous season. The average price at both auction and contract floors stood at 2.25 USD per kg which is 27.86% higher than in the 2019 marketing season.
The crop has so far fetched a highest price of 6.60 USD per kg while the lowest has been 0.10 US cents per kg. Rejected bales increased by 9.77% to 16 199 from 14 757 recorded in the same period last year. Tobacco production has been on the increase for the past 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 $747 million in exports mainly to China and Europe, according to central bank data. This cropping season tobacco was grown under two extremes of weather characterised by delayed rains and prolonged drought.
Traditionally, the opening of tobacco auction floors leads to improved foreign exchange inflows in the country buyers scramble to purchase the crop at the same time bringing in the much needed foreign currency.