By Paidashe Mandivengerei
ZIMBABWE tobacco sales have hit a record 237.1 million kilograms according to official data presented last Friday by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
With only a week left till the selling season ends, the high tobacco sales in the country are expected to help ease the country’s cash crunch as it is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest exports.
Last year, tobacco accounted for 25% of the $3.8 billion total export and was second after gold.
The high increase in tobacco sales are a result of China’s demands for the product. Zimbabwe and China’s business relationship has without doubt improved the amount of sales in this sector which in 2008 struck the rock-bottom.
Most Zimbabwean farmers who benefitted from the land reform programme fostered by former President Robert Mugabe grow tobacco.
Data produced by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) showed that 2018 sales had passed the 2000 record of $236.9 million when white farmers produced 85% of the crop.
Currently the country is facing severe foreign currency shortages which poses problems to the business industry mainly the stock market.
“Tobacco fetched good prices, but the challenge was getting money from the banks,” a tobacco farmer, Terrence Sibindi said.
Due to severe inflation, Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 and turned to the US dollar but owing to trade deficit and lack of foreign investment the US dollar has since become scarce as well.
The country on 30 July will hold presidential elections. Zimbabweans remain hopeful that the post-election period will unlock business opportunities that will give them foreign funding and solve the cash crisis which has gone on for years.