Oliver Kazunga, Acting Business Editor
ZIMBABWE’s tobacco output is expected to decline by 13 percent to 225 million kilogrammes this year from a record high of 259 million kilogrammes in the last season due to drought.
The 2019/20 summer cropping season has of late been hit hard by the extremely hot weather conditions, which have largely affected output across the agriculture sector as some crops such as maize have wilted while deaths caused by drought in livestock have been recorded across the country in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Masvingo, among others.
Speaking by telephone yesterday, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chairperson Mr Patrick Devenish said initial estimates indicate that 225 million kilogrammes of tobacco would be delivered to the auction floors this year.
“The earliest estimate of the crop is approximately 225 kilogrammes although the irrigated crop is very good in quality, the dry land crop suffered the effects of drought and also the planting season began late because of the late onset of the rainy season,” he said.
“The irrigated crop (tobacco) is of very good quality and the dry land crop, not all of it but quite a lot of it is suffering as a result of drought and it needs a bit of some rains.”
In a separate interview, TIMB chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri said together with Agritex they were presently undertaking a crop assessment, which exercise would be complete in the next two weeks.
“We are currently undertaking a crop assessment together with Agritex which will give us the date when the 2020 tobacco marketing season will start.
“So far, what we have observed during the crop assessment is that the tobacco crop is now growing well after the rains most parts of the country have received,” he said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the irrigated crop established in the first week of September was ready for marketing while a majority of the dryland crop was largely affected by the dry spell.
“The irrigated crop planted on the 1st of September last year is ready for marketing; reaping and curing was done in December. On the other hand, a majority of the dryland crop was affected by the dry spell.
“However, the crop stands a chance of a huge recovery if the rains that are being received in some parts of the country continue,” he said.
The golden leaf is one of Zimbabwe’s top foreign currency earners and the country generates an estimated US$1 billion annually from exporting the crop across different parts of the world.
Statistics from TIMB indicate that the hectarage planted under tobacco as at December 2019 spiked by 2,8 percent to 81 977.