Zimbabwe must increase its tobacco production to meet increasing demand in the United States and other international markets, Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president Adrian Swales said.
At a Blackfordby College of Agriculture open day recently, Swales said there was increasing demand for locally-produced tobacco internationally, adding this called for an increase in production.
Zimbabwe, which exports its tobacco to the United States, Brazil and China, is facing high demand following a supply deficit.
Traditionally, because of its high quality owing to unique climatic conditions, Zimbabwean tobacco is used internationally for blending in the manufacture of cigarettes to give them their distinct flavours.
"There is shortage of tobacco. I received a call from the United States of America urging us to increase the size of the crop due to the increasing demands of our tobacco," said Swales.
Tobacco Industry Marketing Board chief executive Andrew Matibiri said as of January 4 at least 65 199 growers had registered, compared to 34 673 in the same period last year.
Of those registered, A1 farmers comprised 43%, communal farmers 40%, small scale commercial farmers 10% and A2 farmers 7%. The number of registered new farmers was 30 526.
"Generally, there is a sharp increase in area planted compared to last year. Reaping and curing of the irrigated crop is under
way and dryland tobacco's condition is ranging from fair to good, with barn construction in progress for new farmers," said Matibiri
Contract farmers had the potential of producing about 92 030 139 kilogrammes this year. Among the merchants who contracted farmers, NT had 12 004 hectares, Mashonaland Tobacco Company 8 903ha, Tianze 51 199 ha, Tribac 4 888,75ha, and Chidziva 3 167,5 ha.
A total of 92,4 million kg of the contracted crop were sold at an average price of US$3,72 per kg last year. This was a significant increase from 74,5 million kg at an average price of US$2,97 per kg recorded in 2011.
Total tobacco sales volumes at all auction floors last year were 52,1 million kg, at an average price of US$3,52/kg. This was down from 57,9 million kg at US$2,52/kg in 2011.
A total 130 million kg was exported last year, with more than 42% of the tobacco going to China. In total, exports earned US$771 million averaging US$5,94/kg. The average price is the highest annual average export price achieved since dollarisation.