Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE area put under tobacco has dropped by about 14 percent to 92,160 hectares this season due to the late rainfall the country has received.
Latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) show that during the same period last year, 107,546 ha had been put under the golden leaf.
In Zimbabwe, tobacco is grown in eight regions, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Midlands, Matabeleland North, Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Manicaland, and Mashonaland East as rain-fed or irrigated crop.
Agronomist Thomas Nherera yesterday said there was no potential that this season’s tobacco hectarage would increase to match last year’s due to limited rainfall the country has so far received.
“We’ve received limited rainfall and because of that we don’t see the area planted under tobacco this season increasing to that of last year. During the 2015/16 cropping season, there has been limited moisture required to transplant the tobacco.
“The hectarage under tobacco has also declined compounded by the decrease in the number of tobacco growers,” he said.
As of February 18, 2016, TIMB indicated that 70,531 farmers had registered to grow tobacco in the 2015/16 farming season compared to 89,012 registered growers during the comparable period last year.
Of the 70,531 registered growers, 33,759 were communal farmers, while A1 were 25,530, A2 farmers (5,890) and 5,352 small-scale commercial farmers.
At present, there are 9,068 new registered tobacco farmers compared to 16,679 recorded during a similar period last year.
The tobacco sector has over the years played a significant role in supporting the economy particularly at this time when the country is experiencing liquidity constraints.
Since the beginning of the year, tobacco has raked in $203,6 million from 30,1 million kilogrammes exported to different parts of the world.
Zimbabwe’s tobacco export earnings in 2015 increased to $867 million compared to $772,5 million achieved the previous year.