The tobacco selling season seems to have got off to a good start with prices firmer than those for the last two years.
According to the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, though a smaller crop of 252 178 kgs had been sold in the first three days of the current selling season, compared with 449 847 kgs last year and 625 063 kgs in 2001, the average price had firmed slightly to USD$1.64 a kg compared with US$1.63 last year and US$1.30 in 2001.
The major setback will be the size of the crop. This year’s crop is estimated at 85 million kgs, down from 166 million last year and a crop of over 200 million kgs the year before. The smaller crop is due to the decline in the number of large scale producers now estimated at fewer than 500, a third of their number in 2001.
Though small holders have put more land to tobacco their yields are too small.
The ZTA says large-scale producers are expected to produce 63 million kgs of tobacco from 23 240 hectares. Their yields are much higher with irrigation yielding 3 200 kgs a hectare while dryland produces 2 500 kgs a hectare.
Smallholders on the other hand only produce 900 kgs a hectare. So, although they have put 24 440 hectares under tobacco they will only produce 22 million kgs.
This year’s crop is said to be the smallest in 22 years. Only 67 million kgs was harvested in 1981, a year after independence.
While market watchers believe that tobacco production could further deteriorate because small holders are mostly interested in growing their own food, they could be in for a big surprise just like they have been surprised by the maize crop the country is now expected to harvest.