Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE number of tobacco growers this farming season has increased by 15 percent to 81 301 according to latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB).
The industry said during the same period last year 70 412 farmers had registered to grow the golden leaf across the country.
The 2016/17 farming season has so far recorded 14 283 new growers with a total of 91 805 hectares having been put under tobacco.
At present, 76 775ha are under dry land tobacco while 15 030 are under irrigation.
During the same period last year, 87 755ha were planted under tobacco.
The golden leaf is one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners and last year the crop generated about $933 million from 164,5 million kilogrammes that were exported to 65 countries around the world at an average price of $5,67 a kilogramme.
In the first two weeks of this year, the country exported just 2,7 million kg worth $9 million at an average price of $3,57 compared to more than 20 million kg exported during the same period last year at an average of $7,76 a kg raking in $157, 2 million.
This year’s tobacco was exported to 14 countries that include the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Greece, Sudan, Vietnam, Germany, Egypt, Mozambique and Ukraine.
As part of encouraging exports across all sectors of the economy, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last year introduced a five percent export incentives with the tobacco sector receiving a collective $29 million from the Central Bank in bond notes, which are at par in value with the United States dollar.
Meanwhile, tobacco growers who sold their crop during the 2015-16 selling season have started receiving their five percent export incentive in bond notes into their bank accounts from RBZ.
The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union has applauded RBZ for the incentive, saying it would motivate farmers to grow more tobacco.
A total of 73 343 growers delivered about 202 million kg of the gold leaf to the country’s auction floors during the 2015-16 season.