By Elita Chikwati, Agriculture Reporter for The Herald
Zimbabwe is the major flue-cured tobacco producer in Africa and occupies fifth position in the world as many communal farmers joined the lucrative farming sector following the land reform programme.
A recent study by BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants revealed that the country only trails China, Brazil, India and the United States in tobacco production.
The BDO Zimbabwe study highlights that new tobacco growers, mostly communal farmers, had taken up tobacco farming since 2000, the year the country embarked on the land reform programme.
This resulted in changes in the demographics of the tobacco farmers, which saw at least 62 percent of those who produced the crop during the 2013-14 season being small to medium-scale communal farmers.
The sector used to be dominated by white former commercial farmers. “The increase in tobacco production over the years is also attributed to an increase in average tobacco selling prices, funding from tobacco merchants through contract farming and timeous realisation of sale proceeds,” said BDO Zimbabwe.
“Proceeds from selling tobacco are received on the day the crop is sold.
“The average tobacco selling price in Zimbabwe compares favourably with prices realised in other tobacco producing countries. Tobacco contributed 10 to 12 percent to the Gross Domestic Product for the 2014 fiscal year and with a crop value of about $685 million marketed during the season.”
According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board statistics, every year a huge number of new farmers register to grow the crop.
“For the 2014-15 growing season, there were 28 769 new registrations with TIMB,” the board said. The 2015/216 season had recorded 17 433 new registrations by June 30 2015.
“Production increased from 58,5 million kg in 2010; 123,5 million kg in 2011; 132,5 million kg in 2012; 144 million kg in 2013, 216 million kg in 2015 and 2015 recorded a decline to 198 million kg due to poor rainfall season.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said many people were willing to grow tobacco because of the cash crop’s orderly marketing.
He said farmers followed the trends on the market and would go for the highest paying crop.
“Farmers make decisions just like any other business people, and will go for the highly paying crop. some farmers are shifting from tobacco after realising low profits,” he said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director Mr Paul Zakariya urged farmers to aim at increasing yield per unit area other than increasing hectarage.
“Farmers should aim for high productivity per unit area. It is better to grow a small piece of land that is easily manageable in terms of fertilisers and other inputs,” he said.