Zambia tobacco grading
Zambia tobacco grading Image source: atoi.org

Land put under tobacco production in the 2019/20 summer cropping season currently stands at 35,998 hectares, down from 42, 010 that had been planted during the same period last year, according to data released by the industry regulator on Monday.

Planting of tobacco started on Sept. 1 and is on-going until Dec. 31.

According to statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), of the total area planted so far, at least 23, 265 hectares are rain-fed while the remainder is irrigated.

TIMB chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri attributed the decline 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 shortage of water needed to irrigate the crop as some water bodies have dried up,” he said.

About 12,733 hectares of land has irrigated tobacco, down from about 16, 345 hectares last season.

Tobacco leaf is one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners. This year, the country sold 259 million kilograms of tobacco leaf worth 526 million U.S. dollars, up from 252 million kg sold last year.

Zimbabwe exports its tobacco leaf to various countries in Africa, America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, among others.

China has emerged as the biggest buyer of Zimbabwean tobacco leaf in recent years.

According to TIMB, at least 140,247 farmers have so far registered to grow tobacco in the 2019/20 cropping season, a 15 percent drop from 165,130 growers recorded during the comparable period last year.

Matibiri said farmers were not spared from the prevailing economic challenges, hence the decrease in the number of farmers who are growing tobacco this season.

“Bearing in mind the general economic environment, some farmers may be contemplating not growing tobacco this season,” he said. Enditem

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