The 2018 tobacco marketing season has roared into life with the golden leaf being added to the basket of crops receiving support under the command agriculture programme.

The government announced the move at the start of the tobacco selling season in the capital this morning.

Acting President Retired General Constantino Chiwenga announced the addition of tobacco to command agriculture while officially launching the selling season.

“I am elated to report that government has extended the tobacco contract model to the same category, maize production programme commonly known as “command agriculture” which recently has been extended to cover wheat, soya beans, livestock, fisheries and wildlife production. 

“In the meantime I urge farmers to produce their tobacco in a sustainable manner that also conserves the environment through the use of alternative source of energy such as coal, biogas and electricity,” said Acting President Chiwenga.

Production of maize and wheat being produced under the command agriculture programme has more than doubled and tobacco production could rise exponentially due to the command scheme, thereby increasing foreign currency inflows.

Retired General Chiwenga challenged the tobacco industry to start value addition in order to increase job creation, and earnings from exports, and by-products of tobacco like pesticides and hair oils.

“Government through ZIM ASSET is encouraging value addition and beneficiation in all sectors of the economy. The tobacco industry should therefore not lag behind in this noble endeavour to add value to tobacco rather than export it in its unprocessed form.

“Currently 98 percent of all tobacco is being exported. Tobacco process is partially being done by merchant companies who remove the stem and tips from the leaf, before it is shipped abroad. This adds a mere 30 to 50 percent,” he added.

Tobacco contracting companies which financed 82 percent of tobacco production during the 2017/18 production season were commended for this pivotal role.

The Acting President together with the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Retired Chief Air Marshall Perrance Shiri and other dignitaries witnessed the first sale of tobacco for 2018 which was auctioned at US$4,90 per kilogramme.