Tobacco sales kick off on a high note


Zimbabwe’s tobacco auctions kicked off on a high note on March 30 with 196 930 kg being sold at an average price of US$1.74 a kg. The auctions were opened earlier than normal at the request of farmers who want to avoid high interest rates on the loans they obtained this season.

Last year the floors opened April 23 and the previous year on May 14. Last year 127 351 kg was sold on the first day at an average price of US$1.27 a kg. In 2002, a smaller crop of 109 884 kg was sold on the first day at an average price of US$1.67 a kg.

This year’s crop of 60 million kg will be one of the smallest in the country’s history. Some estimates put the crop down to around 45 million kg. Last year a total of 81 712 722 kg was sold at an average price of US$2.25 a kg.

The decline in production is being attributed to the current land reform programme which has seen land being taken from mostly white commercial farmers being given to peasant farmers.

The number of growers has steadily increased because of the present land reform programme though production has plummeted.

There were only 1 493 growers in 1990 but this has shot up to an estimated 16 700 growers this year. There were an estimated 20 100 growers last year.

The drop in production has also seen the land under tobacco decline from a peak of 95 613 ha. in 1998 to 37 00 ha. this year. The 1998 crop was cultivated by 8 304 growers but only earned the country US$372.5 million.

The largest yield of 236 725 tonnes was recorded in 2000. It was cultivated by 8 531 growers on 83 640 ha. It earned the country US$399.9 million.

The highest earnings were in 1996 when 2 917 growers produced 201 631 tonnes which earned the country US$593.4 million.

Though sceptics predict the death of the tobacco farming industry, farming experts, especially those who have been working with small-scale producers, say the industry is poised for a boom because small-scale producers have boosted yields in whatever sector they have entered.

Though they rely on dryland cultivation small-scale producers are the now the biggest producers of maize and cotton, a thing they achieved largely because of the opening up of markets after independence. They are also the largest producers beef though offtake is very small.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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