Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Farmers Hope for Better Season

Despite weather challenges, growers prepare for March auction

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe, Africa’s largest producer of tobacco, is gearing up for the 2024 marketing season, which is set to start in March. The cash crop is a major source of income and foreign currency for the country, but it also faces some environmental and social challenges.

Weather woes

The 2024 farming season was marked by a late onset of rains, which affected the quality and quantity of the tobacco crop. Some regions also experienced severe hailstorms that damaged the plants.

Chelesani Tsarwe, public affairs officer of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, said that while the previous season saw a record high of 296 million kilograms of tobacco, this year’s projection is around 250 million kilograms due to the dry spell.

The Zimbabwean government aims to increase production to 300 million kilograms per year by 2025, as part of its economic recovery plan.

George Seremwe, president of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association, said that last season had good rains and quality, resulting in a positive outcome. He said that farmers were hopeful for better prices this year, as they had invested a lot in inputs and labor.

Market prospects

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board announced that tobacco auction floors will open on March 13, followed by contract floors the next day. Contract floors are where farmers sell their tobacco to buyers who have pre-financed them.

Shaw Mutalepo, farm manager at Little North Farm in Norton town in north-central Zimbabwe, said that despite the challenges, preparations for the selling season were well underway. He said that he expected to harvest about 15,000 kilograms of tobacco from his 10-hectare plot.

Zimbabwe’s tobacco is renowned worldwide, especially in China, which is the largest buyer of the crop. Tsarwe said that China accounted for more than 60% of Zimbabwe’s tobacco exports in the past two seasons.

“For the 2023 season we exported 75.8 million kilograms of tobacco to China, and for the 2022 season we exported 67.8 million kilograms of tobacco to China,” he said.

Value addition

While tobacco remains a major foreign currency earner, some stakeholders have called for increased value addition to maximize benefits, particularly for small-scale farmers who make up over 80% of tobacco growers in the country.

Seremwe said that value addition, such as processing and packaging the tobacco locally, would create more jobs and income for the farmers and the country.

“We think it will be very important for the government and the stakeholders to work on value addition, that is value addition locally, with that, probably we hope that the profits will also be shared among farmers,” he said.

He also urged the government to address some of the challenges facing the tobacco sector, such as high taxes, inadequate infrastructure, and climate change.

Despite the difficulties, tobacco farming remains a lucrative and attractive venture for many Zimbabweans, who hope for a better season and a brighter future.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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