Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe tobacco output seen up, but shy of target

Zimbabwe tobacco output seen up, but shy of target

Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:20pm GMT

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s tobacco production is set to continue its 
recovery this year, but output might be short of the projected 150 million 
kg due to limited funding and erratic rainfall, farmers said as the auction 
season opened on Wednesday.

Tobacco, which earned Zimbabwe about $400 million in 2011, has fallen behind 
mining as the country’s leading foreign currency earner, after President 
Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms saw production of most major 
crops plummeting.

Tobacco output declined to 48 million kg in 2008, from a peak of 236 million 
kg in 2000.

Small-scale farmers have led a rebound, aided by the use of stable foreign 
currencies adopted by the government to replace a local unit destroyed by 
hyperinflation, and funding from China – which now dominates a market 
previously controlled by Western merchants.

The Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB), which regulates the sector in 
Zimbabwe, says it expects production to reach 150 million kg this year, up 
from 131 million kg previously, but farmers say that target is not likely to 
be achieved.

“We will be happy if we could match last year’s production. The rains were 
patchy and many growers dropped out due to lack of funding, so we are 
unlikely to see such a significant leap in output,” Zimbabwe Farmers Union 
vice president Berean Mukwende told Reuters during a ceremony to mark the 
official start of the auctions.

Over 50,000 mostly small-scale black farmers have taken over production of 
the bulk of the crop, once the preserve of white commercial farmers

Tobacco farmer Elphanos Mashingaidze said although output was unlikely to 
change from the previous year, farmers expected firmer prices this time 

“Today’s opening prices, for what is typically lower grade tobacco, give us 
confidence that this year prices could be better,” Mashingaidze said. “We 
need an average price of $4.50 per kg to farm profitably.”

He said while Chinese firms were funding some farmers under contract growing 
schemes and purchasing about 75 percent of the crop, many farmers were still 
struggling to get bank loans to finance their operations.


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