By Alois Vinga
THE number of registered tobacco growers has declined by 24% compared to the same period last year hinting at the possibility of reduced yields this year.
The golden leaf is one of the country’s key foreign currency earners which also serves as an economic anchor.
However, the latest data from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) shows that the number of enlisted growers has reduced significantly.
“A total 112, of 916 growers have registered so far in preparation for the upcoming season. This compares to 147,748 growers who had registered during the same period last year,” said TIMB.
As a result, the figures show a total 24% decline in the comparative period.
Experts have attributed the decline to the doubts cast due to the late start of the rains and overall drought fears which gripped the nation at the commencement of the 2023/2024 rainy season.
Mashonaland Central which had a total of 52 068 registered tobacco farmers in last year dwindled to 42 135 this year with Mashonaland West going down from 52 130 to 40 128 this year.
Manicaland and Mashonaland East have registered farmers stats hovering around 17 000 farmers. The hectarage of planted tobacco also went down significantly, reducing by minus 5% on a national scale.
Some market experts however believe that it may be too early to predict a decline since some growers are still registering.
Sadly, 93% of the expected yield is contract farming with just a paltry 7% falling under the small-scale farmers.
“As of January 5 2024, the top five tobacco export destinations were Armenia, Vietnam, France, Madagascar, South Africa, UAE and the Philippines,” TIMB said.