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March 08, 2011

Zimbabwe's tobacco earnings rise 33%

by Nelson Gore Banya

Zimbabwe’s income from tobacco sales has jumped 33 percent since the marketing season started in February compared with a year earlier, as a rise in sales outweighs a drop in prices, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board said.

The southern African nation has earned about $12 million from sales of the leaf since Feb. 16, up from $9 million a year earlier, the board said. About 4.1 million kilograms (9 million pounds) of tobacco has been sold at an average price of $2.09 a kilogram, compared with 2.5 million kilograms at $3.06 per kilogram last year, it said.

Tobacco production in Zimbabwe is still below peak levels of about 236 million kilograms achieved in 2000, before President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Front party sponsored often-violent seizures of most white-owned farms. Output slipped to a low of 58.6 million kilograms in 2009, reflecting the effects of a political and economic crisis that peaked during 2008.

Zimbabwe’s tobacco output may rise 38 percent to 170 million kilograms this season as more farmers grow the crop and as the nation’s “economic environment” improves, Andrew Matibiri, the board’s chief executive officer, said on Feb. 16.

Small-scale tobacco farmers currently account for more than half of Zimbabwe’s output, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said on the same day. As production rises, farmers should now focus on improving quality, he said.

Zimbabwe earned $347.8 million from tobacco sales last year, according to the board, which oversees the industry. China was the main buyer of Zimbabwe’s crop, replacing Western companies that were traditionally the biggest buyers, it said.

Zimbabwe is the world’s sixth-largest exporter of the flue- cured variety of the leaf, which is also known as Virginia tobacco. It lags behind Brazil, India, the U.S., Argentina and Tanzania, according to the website of Universal Corp., the world’s biggest tobacco-leaf merchant.


by Martin Nyandoro

About 60 000 tobacco growers are expected to sell their crop at the auction floors this season, up from 50 000 in 2010.

A total of 170 million kg of tobacco is expected to be delivered to the floors this year up from 123 million last year.

Tobacco sales are expected to increase after the re-opening of the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors that are currently undergoing renovations.

Boka Investments, which was awarded a licence to operate the floors, is already advising farmers to register to sell their tobacco at their floors as they would be opening for business soon.

Only Class A buyers are participating in the selling of tobacco this season as Class B buyers were suspended for ripping off farmers last season.

TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri last week said they refunded the Class B buyers their licence fees.

The buyers had paid US$2 000 each in licence fees to TIMB ahead of this year’s selling season

Zim Telegraph

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