Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Tobacco grower profile shifts

Tobacco grower profile shifts

Thursday, 03 November 2011 14:46

Reginald Sherekete

TOBACCO output is likely to increase after more communal and small scale 
farmers dumped the traditionally preferred maize and cottons crops.
Statistics released by the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) for the 
week ending 28 October 2011 show that 4 401 new communal farmers and 5 788 
new A1 farmers have registered for the 2012 tobacco season. A1 and communal 
farmers now represent 47% and 33%, respectively of total registered tobacco 
TIMB indicated that registered growers increased by 1 831 to 29 859 this 
week, with significant increases being in communal and A1 farmers. This 
indicates a 7% increase from those registered in the previous week.

“There is a 10% increase in registered growers compared to last year’s 
figure of 27 267 during the same period,” said TIMB in their weekly 
The 2011 tobacco selling season failed to meet the projected 170 million kgs 
of tobacco and the country is still below the peak season of 236 million kgs 
in 2000 before the height of the land reform programme.

The increase in communal and A1 farmers will result in an increase in the 
tobacco output, as the country positions itself to produce to its peak 
But statistics indicate that there is a relatively low figure of large scale 
commercial farmers in the 2011 season who can guarantee a significant 
comeback of the tobacco crop to peak levels.

A total of 751 large scale commercial farmers have been registered for the 
2011 season representing 3% of total registered farmers. There has been an 
increase of 37 new large scale commercial farmers for the 2012 season and 
this indicates that the crop may be increased in output next year.
An agronomist with a leading bank said: “The interest to grow tobacco has 
been phenomenal due to its attractiveness as a cash crop compared to the 
traditional crops.”

“The golden leaf has managed to offer a greater return since it is an export 
crop which is sold under auction. This has enabled farmers to get 
favaourable prices as compared to the maize crop whose price is pegged by 
government,” further explained the agronomist.

Statistics also reveal that Mashonaland  West and East had more than 50% 
increase in registered communal farmers, with a total of 4 307 and 2 393 
respectively. Manicaland and Mashonaland Central have the highest increases 
in A1 farmers of 1 800 and 1 720 respectively.

Mashonaland West has traditionally been the hub of maize crop farming but 
the trend now shows that farmers in that region are now opting to grow 
tobacco.  Huge silos for storing grain are visible in the farming area 
around Chinhoyi and Lions Den, a sign that the farming region was 
traditionally reserved for producing maize.

“Without doubt these statistics are worrying because maize is our staple 
food and this trend only indicates that we are far from doing away with 
maize shortages. But farmers are also rational businesspeople who seek to 
maximise their returns, so there is an urgent need to address the pricing 
matrix of maize for it to remain a farmers choice,” an agro-economist said.

From the statistics, 11 newly registered large scale commercial farmers are 
from Mashonaland West, with nine from Mashonaland East. This is a clear sign 
of the shift to tobacco farming in the provinces.

In the 2011 tobacco season, a total of 132,4 million kgs of tobacco were 
sold through both the auction and the contract system, showing an increase 
of 7,23% from the 2010 selling season. A total of US$361,5 million was 
realised in the just concluded season as compared to US$355,6 million in 
In the 2011 selling season, prices were lower averaging US$2,73, compared to 
last season’s average price of US$2,88. Analysts say this is largely owing 
to quality and impact of big foreign buyers in the market like the Chinese.

“When the Chinese come into the market, they cause shocks since their huge 
demand in a short time causes prices to spike but only to weaken to very low 
levels after they exit the market. It’s a market and there is nothing we can 
do, farmers should be able to read the market conditions and sell their crop 
at the correct market timing,” a tobacco trader said.

Seasonal export figures show that China was the biggest buyer of tobacco 
including cigarettes with a total of 33,8 million kgs worth US$245 million. 
The United Arab Emirates and South Africa are the second largest importers 
of Zimbabwean tobacco totaling 12,7 million and 12,5 million kgs 
Communal and small scale farmers who are still mastering how to grow tobacco 
usually produce a lower quality crop as the methods they use for growing and 
curing the golden leaf are not to standard.

In the 2011 selling season a total of 119 201 bales of tobacco were rejected 
for various reasons including bales being underweight. This shows a 
rejection rate of 7%, which is an improvement from last year’s rejection 
rate of 8%.


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