TOBACCO sales volumes for the current season have reached 126,2 million kilogrammes, 6,5% ahead of the 18,4 million kg recorded in the same period last season.
Earnings for this season so far total US$465 million, up by 45% from US$313 million recorded last year.
Prices for the golden leaf averaged US$3,7 per kg, up by 36% from the US$2,7 achieved last year.
Contract sales have this season realised US$294 million sold at a firm price of US$3,8 per kg. Contract sales volumes currently total 77 million kg while sales from auctions are at 49 million valued at US$175 million.
Tobacco output for the 2012 marketing season has been revised downwards to 130 million kg, declining from the projected 180 million kg.
Rejected bales this season dropped by 13% to 70 842 compared to the 104 969 recorded in the previous season.
Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Tapiwa Mashakada, presenting a progress report on the implementation of the Medium Term Plan (MTP) before parliament this week said the 130 million kg revised tobacco output was 28% lower than the MTP target, a development he described as disturbing.
MTP this year was targeting 180 million kg in terms of tobacco output.
Mashakada attributed the drop to a decline in tobacco hectarage, which went down to 76 000 hectares or 2,5% compared to last year's season.
This, he said, was coupled with reduced support to farmers attributed to the persistent liquidity crunch in the country and resulted in scaling down of contract arrangements also due to side marketing by beneficiaries.
The situation was also worsened by erratic rains and power cuts during the curing of the harvested leaf.
Mashakada attributed the slow economic growth, which has been revised to 5,7% this year compared to the MTP's 7,2% to failure in agriculture.
The 2012 MTP targeted a growth of 15% in the agriculture sector which has been revised downwards to a negative growth of 5,8%. -- Staff Writer.