Tobacco exports breach US$1bn

ZIMBABWE’S tobacco export earnings for the 10 months to November 10, 2023, jumped 29,2 percent to just over US$1 billion compared to the same period last year, the latest figures from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) show.

According to TIMB, as of November 10, 2023, Zimbabwe had exported 202 678 140 kilogrammes of the golden leaf valued at US$1 064 billion.

The average price for the period was US$5,25 per kg.

In the corresponding period last year, Zimbabwe shipped a total of 157 947 713 million kg, generating US$753,1 million at an average price of US$4,77 per kg.

The golden leaf is the country’s largest agricultural commodity export earner.

Most of the tobacco, 94 866 462kg worth US$682,3 million were exported to the Far East at an average price of US$7,19 a kg.

During the same period last year, the Far East was also on top spot consuming 64 671 750kg at an average price of US$6,96 per kg raking in US$450,4 million.

Exports to Africa totaled 37 092 002kg valued at US$127,3 million at an average price of US$3,43 a kg while shipments within the continent over the same period last year stood at 31 860 905 kg valued at US$94,6 million at an average price of US$2,97 per kg.

TIMB indicated that the golden leaf from Zimbabwe is also being exported to the European Union, Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

In an interview, Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Mr Paul Zakariya said between 90 percent and 98 percent of the tobacco growers each successive season were contracted by foreign investors who have agents in the country.

The net effect of this, he said, was that Zimbabwe continued to export the crop without significant value addition thus depriving the country of optimal revenue from the crop.

“So, if we were to finance production using local funds, you can imagine what we will be able to do with our own tobacco and the industry that can come out of that —  the people that can be employed and also increased foreign currency generation or revenue that we can collect,” he said.

TIMB also indicated that in preparation for the 2023/2024 planting season, 107 415 growers had been registered to grow the crop.

And out of that figure, 92 percent were under the contract arrangement.

Last year over the same period, 143 660 growers had registered to grow tobacco in the 2022/2023 cropping season.

Mr Zakariya said they were also concerned with the prevalence of bogus farmers who ultimately end up securing grower registration numbers encouraging side marketing.

“So far, there are issues to do with grower registration where some bogus farmers end up getting grower numbers -they are not farmers, but just middlemen who then go about around buying tobacco encouraging side-marketing again depriving the country of millions of dollars and that has to be stamped out,” he said.

Mr Zakariya said in the tobacco sector, side-marketing remained an issue and the database discrepancies needed to be sorted out.

“Some individuals that are not even tobacco producers end up having grower numbers and that has to be stamped out.

“The database itself has to be cleaned up so that whoever comes to register, there has to be a system that first confirms that the person has a farm in a tobacco growing area.

“And the farm size and its location must be known,” he said. We are encouraging TIMB to use the geo-fencing technology which will help them to know exactly when they are registering a grower and where that particular grower is.

“They (TIMB) also need to improve their database by highlighting those farmers who would have been contracted, the information must actually be in a live database.”

In light of the expected impact of El Nino weather phenomenon expected to hit some parts of the country in the 2023/2024 summer cropping season, ZFU immediate past president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said tobacco growers had intensified the adaptation of climate-proof strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of the anticipated drought.

“On account of the warning given by the weather experts of the impending drought this summer cropping season, tobacco growers have gone a step further adopting climate-proofing strategies so that even if it happens, its impact will be less devastating. As you might be aware tobacco is grown on ridges, the farmers have dug holes in between the ridges where the crop is planted to trap water so that the plants do not suffer from moisture stress in the event of a prolonged dry spell,” he said.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in July this year predicted the commencement of the devastating climate phenomenon, warning that its return would engender rising global temperatures and extreme weather conditions. In Southern Africa, Zimbabwe alongside Madagascar and Mozambique are listed as highly exposed countries to the potent climate phenomena that is making a comeback in almost four years.

In 2015-2016, an El Nino-induced drought affected most parts of Zimbabwe, a situation that saw the country importing food largely grain from all over the world including countries as far as Eastern Europe.

“This strategy, which we call ‘potholing’ has proved effective for the tobacco crop that was transplanted on the 1st of September which could be suffering from moisture stress following the dry spell being experienced right now after the significant rains that pounded most parts of the country in recent weeks.

“Potholing prevents run off as the strategy is also akin to establishing a weir between the ridges in the field, and if the water fills up in one pothole it flows to the next hole trapping water,” he said.


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