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March 16, 2008

Zimbabwe's tobacco yield to be lower than projected

ZIMBABWE’S tobacco yield estimate for this year has been revised downward by 41 percent due to unfavourable weather conditions and shortages of fertiliser, the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) has said.

In a statement, the association said the country is now forecast to produce 70 million kilogrammes of the "golden leaf" compared with 120 million kilogrammes that was projected in October.

On the overall, the yield is set to earn the country US$170 million.

"We are expecting a crop of less than 70 million kilogrammes because drought in the early season and heavy rains more recently have affected the crop. Some growers have opted out of tobacco farming because of problems in accessing inputs," read the statement.

Preparations for the tobacco-selling season are at an advanced stage as sales are slated to begin next month. However, stakeholders pointed out that authorities needed to be pro-active in addressing problems that have periodically characterised the tobacco-selling season.

The shortage of wrapping paper last year led to temporary suspension of tobacco deliveries to the auction floors. On the other hand, the paper was readily available on the parallel market at punitive prices.

Tobacco is still regarded as the country’s major foreign currency earner although production has suffered a huge slump since 2000. At its peak in 1999, about 210 million kg were produced but since then production started falling drastically.

Shortages of inputs, under-utilisation of land, drought and lack of expertise in tobacco production have been some of the challenges affecting the sector, but conditions are expected to start improving this season as a lot of resources have been injected by the Government.

Zimbabwe is the world’s sixth-largest exporter of tobacco after Brazil, India, the US, the European Union and Argentina.

The Sunday Mail

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