TOBACCO output for this season is expected to rise by 5,8 percent to 200 million kilograms giving the country a lifeline against the biting foreign currency shortages, an industry body has said.
Some 186.3 million kgs of the so-called golden leaf were sold last year, earning the country about US$552.8 million.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s top foreign currency earners.
The new selling season started Wednesday with the highest opening price at 4.90 U.S. dollars per kg, up from 4.60 dollars last year.
Officiating at the opening of the floors, vice president Constantino Chiwenga told farmers that at least 80 percent of this season’s tobacco crop was funded by contractors.
“Government appreciates the coming on board of the tobacco contracting companies where they financed 82 percent of the crop in the 2017/18 agricultural season,” Chiwenga said.
Most of the tobacco is sold to China, South Africa and Belgium.
Chiwenga said the government will extend its command agriculture program, started with maize production in 2016, to tobacco farming in 2019.
“I am elated to report that, government has extended the tobacco contract model to the same category as maize production program, commonly known as ‘Command agriculture’ which recently has been extended to cover wheat, soya beans, livestock, fisheries and wildlife production.”
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chairperson Monica Chinamasa urged increased investment in irrigation to mitigate the effects of climate change on tobacco production.
“The crop before us was grown under two extremes of weather characterized by delayed rains in the first half of the season and excessive rains in the second half of the season.
“The delayed rains in the first half of the season have reaffirmed the need to invest more in irrigation development to mitigate the effects of climate change,” she said.