Zimbabwe: Communal Farmers Lead in Tobacco Industry - Biti

Communal farmers have taken charge of tobacco farming in Zimbabwe and now constitute over 40% of registered farmers this year, Finance minister Tendai Biti has said.

He was addressing a press conference at his offices in the capital last month, where he gave a monthly update on the state of the economy.

Tobacco production has remarkably boosted the rural economy, providing jobs to hundreds of workers in a country which has an unemployment rate of over 80%.

"For tobacco, I am pleased to say that as of the 23rd of November 2012, some 63 352 growers had registered for the 2013 season compared to the 33 808 of last year," said Biti.

"So we expect to have a record crop next year. At least 22 182 new growers have been registered for 2013."

Biti said the country recorded 145,5 million kg last season and "because the crop was good, the collections were a record US$580 million at an average of US$3,88".

A1 farmers accounted for 43% of the growers, while A2 commercial and small-scale farmers accounted for 7%, 40% and 10% respectively.

Agriculture has always been a pivotal sector of Zimbabwe's diverse economy, along with mining, tourism and manufacturing.

Tobacco was once Zimbabwe's largest export commodity, accounting for a third of all foreign currency earnings, along with gold and other minerals.

Almost 99% of the crop was exported to 69 different countries in the 1990s.

Biti said major exports comprised minerals, which were at 61,8%, followed by tobacco at 21,8%.

Rural farmers are presently investing in building their own tobacco barns, grading shades as well as purchasing bailing machines.

But they have always complained about the effects of climate change, high costs of inputs and poor prices.

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