Zimbabwe’s 2021 tobacco auction season, which started in April, on Wednesday ended up being a huge success despite effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the latest statistics, farmers delivered 185 million kg of the golden leaf worth 517 million U.S. dollars as compared to 159 million kg valued at 394 million dollars sold during the same period last year.
The average price for the 2021 selling season was 2.73 dollars per kg, up 13 percent compared to last year.
Contract sales, which account for the bulk of sales, will remain open until further notice, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
With the contract sales still in progress, this year’s tobacco deliveries are expected to go above 200 million kg, well above 190 million kg sold in last year’s marketing season.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second foreign currency earner after gold, with China and South Africa being the major buyers of the golden leaf.
Other top buyers of flue-cured tobacco from Zimbabwe are the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Belgium.
The crop is mainly produced through the contract system where buyers provide the farmers with the inputs for tobacco farming, thereby reducing the capital required to run a tobacco farming business.
The remarkable rise in Zimbabwe’s tobacco production comes after production plummeted from the previous peak of 231 million kg in 2001 to a new low of 48 million kg at the height of the country’s economic challenges in 2008.
Growing demand from China and funding from private tobacco companies have boosted output in Zimbabwe.
Although the country is the largest producer of tobacco in Africa, only 1.5 percent of locally-produced crop is channeled toward local processing, with the rest being exported in raw form.
To address the challenge, the government is mapping a new trajectory to get the maximum possible value from the cash crop through value addition.