AT least 35 998 hectares of land have so far been put under tobacco in the 2019/20 summer cropping season, down from 42 010 hectares that had been planted during the same period last year, statistics released by the industry regulator show.
Planting of tobacco started on 1 September and is on-going until the 31st of December. According to statistics released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), of the total area planted, at least 23 265 hectares are rain-fed, while the remainder is irrigated. TIMB chief executive officer, Mr Andrew Matibiri, attributed the reduced hectarage of land put under tobacco to the delayed rainfall season.
“The hectarage is low due to the late start of the rain season, while the irrigated tobacco is also lower because of the shortages of water needed to irrigate the crop as some water bodies had even dried up,” he said. About 12 733 hectares of land has irrigated tobacco, down from about 16 345 hectares last season. Also, according to the TIMB, at least 140 247 farmers have so far registered to grow tobacco during the 2019/20 cropping season, a 15 percent drop from 165 130 growers recorded during the comparable period last year.
Mr Matibiri said farmers were not spared from prevailing economic challenges, hence the decrease in the number of farmers who are growing tobacco during the 2019/20 cropping season.
“Bearing in mind the general economic environment, some farmers may be contemplating not growing tobacco this season,” he said.
Of the total number of registered growers for the 2019/20 season, 76 500 are communal farmers. Tobacco is the country’s second biggest foreign currency earner after minerals though the bulk of the crop is exported in its raw form with the exports generating in excess of US$1 billion annually. This year alone, 259 million kilograms of tobacco worth US$526 million were produced, up from 252 million kilogrammes the previous year. Zimbabwean tobacco is exported to countries in Africa, America, Europe, European Union, and the Middle East among others.- New Ziana