ACTING President Constantino Chiwenga says tobacco will now be included in the command agriculture programme from the start of the upcoming season.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Officiating at the launch of the 2018 tobacco marketing season in Harare yesterday, Chiwenga assured farmers that government would support tobacco farming in order to boost economic development due to its foreign currency generation.
“I am elated to report that government has extended the tobacco contract model to the same category of the maize production programme, commonly known as command agriculture, which has recently been extended to cover wheat, soya beans, livestock, fisheries and wildlife production. So tobacco as from this coming season will also be on command agriculture,” he said.
The inclusion of tobacco under command agriculture is part of government’s efforts to increase the production of the golden leaf, which this marketing season is expected to see between 180 million and 200 million kilogrammes of the crop sold.
In December 2017, legislators called for tobacco to be included in the command agricultural programme and stated that if integrated, the golden leaf could generate up to $3 billion a year based on increased output of the crop.
Tobacco is one of the two major foreign currency earners in the country.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) statistics show that last year, tobacco generated $1 202 247 760 in export proceeds. China is expected to remain the top source market for tobacco exports.
At the opening of auctioning of the golden leaf yesterday, the bidding price for the first bale started at $6 per kg before going down to reach $4,90.
Chiwenga said value addition was also needed for tobacco, which could increase earnings and provide an import substitution.
“Currently, 98% of all tobacco production is exported. Tobacco processing is partially being done by merchant companies, who remove stems and tips from the leaf before it is shipped abroad. This adds to a mere 30% to 50% to a crop’s final export value. Value-addition would not only create the much-needed jobs in the downstream processing industries, but also result in increased earnings from the processed product,” he said.
“The country would also significantly benefit from attained by-products such as pesticides and hair products. This will inevitably help reducing the unsustainable import bill through import substitution.”
He commended the tobacco contract companies for financing 82% of the crop in 2017/18 season.
In his monetary policy statement last month, RBZ governor John Mangudya said the tobacco input finance facility would be increased to $70m this year up from the $28m disbursed in 2017.
Mangudya announced plans to float a Diaspora tobacco financing bond to raise funding for tobacco production.
For the 2018 marketing season, tobacco will be auctioned at Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Monica Chinamasa said the unfavourable weather conditions might affect the tobacco brought to the auction floors.
“It might be because we had hailstorm damage as well in the beginning and then drought, excessive rains, so it depends at what stage the tobacco was at that time. It could impact, but we are praying that the impact is not too much,” she said.
Chinamasa said most of the tobacco to be auctioned would most likely be the irrigated crop.