tobacco 01.09.100.jpgBy Tapiwa Machemedze    

     
The tobacco industry which excelled this year with sales volumes reaching 118 million kilograms, a figure more than double last year’s 58 million kilogrammes output, has come under the spotlight for its sterling achievements this year as the tobacco marketing season draws to a close.

 

As the curtain comes down on the 2010 tobacco selling season stakeholders in the sector ranging from government, farmers and auctioneers have expressed satisfaction with the revival of tobacco farming and marketing.

High sales volume figures of 118 million kilogrammes translating to more than US$340 million in revenue has resulted in the tobacco sector’s contribution reaching 30 % of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product and boosting the agriculture sector’s growth to 18 %.

The industry which had only 2000 farmers in 2008 recorded exponential growth in the number of growers who rose to 29 000 in 2009 up to over 52 000 in 2010 due to many small holder farmers who came on board.

The increased production figures is testimony to the success of the government’s land reform programme.

Sales volumes which were initially estimated at 77 million kilogrammes, twice surpassed expectations and have now reached 118 million kilogrammes.

Stakeholders in the industry say there is need to strengthen the industry for the next growing season.

Tobacco Sales Limited Board Vice Chairman, Mr. Antony Mandiwanza said the group is aiming to be more efficient in supporting tobacco farmers by improving the whole tobacco industry chain ranging from supply of hessian, timely processing of farmers payments and handling more farmers.

“Orderly marketing will continue to be prioritised so that tobacco merchants make Zimbabwe a choice destination,” Mr Mandiwanza said.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union Executive Director, Mr. Paul Zakariya said the continued success of the industry will depend on timely access to inputs such as seed and fertiliser and proper planning, while also encouraging farmers to work in groups and to consult each other.

“Some tobacco farmers planted without registering last year but this has since been regularised. I am sure we are going to witness an up surge in the next season,” said Mr Zakariya.

Tobacco Sales Limited Group Managing Director, Mr. Richard Musvaire says tobacco farmers should continue to be determined and work hard so that they improve on this season’s gains, sentiments which were echoed by the TSF grower of the year, Muzarabani farmer Mr. Hilary Murombedzi.

“Farmers this season have done us proud and we urge them to improve on the quality and quantity of the crop,” said Mr Musvaire.

The tobacco industry is one sector which has proved that the land reform programme is progressing to the next stage by moving from land ownership to increasing production.

With the right conditions put in place, the stage is set for Zimbabwe to reclaim its position as one the world’s leading tobacco growers.